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Defendant Daniel Larkin appealed his conviction of second-degree aggravated domestic assault. Defendant argued the trial court’s exclusion of evidence of complainant’s previous conviction for providing false information to a police officer (FIPO), offered by defendant to impeach complainant, deprived defendant of a fair trial. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in excluding the evidence, and that the error was not harmless. "Here, the jury was faced with the competing narratives of complainant and defendant. The outcome of the case hinged on the credibility of these two individuals, and thus we must take extra caution when analyzing the effect of the exclusion of defendant’s impeachment evidence - complainant’s FIPO conviction. . . . The jury could reasonably find that, because complainant had lied to police previously, her statements to testifying witnesses were less credible than they would have been otherwise." View "Vermont v. Larkin" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Larkin appealed his conviction of second-degree aggravated domestic assault. Defendant argued the trial court’s exclusion of evidence of complainant’s previous conviction for providing false information to a police officer (FIPO), offered by defendant to impeach complainant, deprived defendant of a fair trial. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in excluding the evidence, and that the error was not harmless. "Here, the jury was faced with the competing narratives of complainant and defendant. The outcome of the case hinged on the credibility of these two individuals, and thus we must take extra caution when analyzing the effect of the exclusion of defendant’s impeachment evidence - complainant’s FIPO conviction. . . . The jury could reasonably find that, because complainant had lied to police previously, her statements to testifying witnesses were less credible than they would have been otherwise." View "Vermont v. Larkin" on Justia Law

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Appellant Andrew Tran was convicted of murdering and attempting to murder two rival gang members. On appeal, he contended his conviction for attempted murder had to be reversed because the trial court gave the jury a confusing and inapt instruction on the kill zone theory. The Court of Appeal rejected this contention. However, appellant was only 16 years old when he committed his crimes, and the Court agreed with him that the case must be remanded so he can make a record of information that will be relevant to his youthful offender parole hearing in 25 years. Thus, while the Court affirmed the judgment in its entirety, the Court remanded for this limited purpose. View "California v. Tran" on Justia Law

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Appellant Andrew Tran was convicted of murdering and attempting to murder two rival gang members. On appeal, he contended his conviction for attempted murder had to be reversed because the trial court gave the jury a confusing and inapt instruction on the kill zone theory. The Court of Appeal rejected this contention. However, appellant was only 16 years old when he committed his crimes, and the Court agreed with him that the case must be remanded so he can make a record of information that will be relevant to his youthful offender parole hearing in 25 years. Thus, while the Court affirmed the judgment in its entirety, the Court remanded for this limited purpose. View "California v. Tran" on Justia Law

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The Hagys took a loan to purchase a mobile home and property on which to park it. In 2010, they defaulted. Green Tree initiated foreclosure. Hagy called Green Tree’s law firm, Demers & Adams, wanting to settling the claim. Demers sent a letter containing a Warranty Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, stating, “In return for [the Hagys] executing the Deed … Green Tree has advised me that it will waive any deficiency balance.” The Hagys executed the Deed. Demers wrote to the Hagys’ attorney, confirming receipt of the executed Deed and reaffirming that “Green Tree will not attempt to collect any deficiency balance.” Green Tree dismissed the foreclosure complaint but began calling the Hagys to collect the debt that they no longer owed. Green Tree realized its mistake and agreed that the Hagys owed nothing. In 2011, the Hagys sued, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. Green Tree resolved the dispute through arbitration. The court granted the Hagys summary judgment, reasoning that Demers’ letter “fail[ed] to disclose” that it was “from a debt collector” under 15 U.S.C. 1692e(11). The court awarded them $1,800 in statutory damages and $74,196 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal and the underlying suit. The complaint failed to identify a cognizable injury traceable to Demers; Congress cannot override Article III of the Constitution by labeling the violation of any statutory requirement a cognizable injury. View "Hagy v. Demers & Adams" on Justia Law

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Labor Code section 244, which does not require a litigant to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing a civil action, applies only to claims before the Labor Commissioner. The Court of Appeal explained that section 244 has no effect on Campbell v. Regents of University of California, (2005) 35 Cal.4th 311, which held that public employees must pursue appropriate internal administrative remedies before filing a civil action against their employer. In this case, plaintiff appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of her former employer, the County, in a wrongful termination action. The court held that plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies on her claims that the County terminated her job to discriminate against her; there were no triable issues of fact on plaintiff's claim that she was terminated because of her sexual orientation; and the trial court erred by awarding the County costs on the Fair Employment and Housing Act cause of action. View "Terris v. County of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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In early 2010 Alvin Wassillie was serving out the remainder of a felony sentence at the Parkview Center halfway house in Anchorage. On February 19 he left Parkview on a pass to look for a job. Around the time of his return that afternoon a staff member saw someone toss a white bag through an open window into an upstairs room. Other staff members searched the room and found a white bag with a bottle of vodka in it. Parkview’s security manager identified Wassillie as the person who threw the bag (and presumably the vodka) into the building. Bringing alcohol into the facility was a violation of its rules, so Wassillie was asked to wait in the lobby while a report was made and the Department of Corrections (DOC) was contacted to take Wassillie back to jail. After waiting several hours in the lobby, Wassillie walked out of the facility. A jury found Wassillie guilty of escaping from a halfway house, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. The Alaska Supreme Court granted a petition for hearing on the issue of whether the conviction should be overturned because of the invalidity of the grand jury’s indictment. Wassillie argued that the indictment was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence — an incident report prepared by a staff member at the halfway house, relaying another resident’s description of the defendant’s conduct and introduced to the grand jury through the testimony of an uninvolved supervisor. The State countered that the incident report fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and that even if it was inadmissible hearsay the conviction should not be reversed because any error in the grand jury proceeding was later made harmless by the error-free trial. The Supreme Court held that the incident report did not fall under the business records exception to the hearsay rule and should have been excluded. Because the evidence was otherwise insufficient to support the grand jury’s decision to indict, the indictment was invalid and the conviction had to be reversed. View "Wassillie v. Alaska" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint that alleged claims related to his termination from the police department. The court held that plaintiff's retaliation claim, on its face, was outside the bounds of the Title VII statute; nothing in plaintiff's complaint or his deposition testimony indicated that he was pursuing a Title VII claim encompassing race-based discrimination and thus he could not submit a claim via an affidavit at the summary judgment stage; and the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's contract claim where the strain of public policy that plaintiff sought to invoke was simply inapposite to the facts in this case. View "Winfrey v. Forrest City, Arkansas" on Justia Law

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A Robinson police officer heard a motorcycle “revving” before observing it making a “very wide” turn, nearly hitting a telephone pole. The officer followed, turned on his emergency lights, and activated his siren, but the motorcycle continued to weave across the road for about 12 blocks before turning into a driveway. The motorcycle was driven by Mark, whose wife, Petra, was a passenger on the back. Mark got off the motorcycle, exhibiting “a strong odor of alcohol,” slurred speech, and poor balance. A breath test revealed his blood alcohol concentration was 0.161, over twice the legal limit. Mark was charged with aggravated DUI and driving without a valid driver’s license. Since 1996, his license had been summarily suspended multiple times; it was revoked following his 2008 DUI conviction. That revocation was extended after he was convicted of driving with a revoked license. Police seized the 2010 Harley-Davidson. The state sought forfeiture (720 ILCS 5/36-1(a)(6)(A)(i)). Petra was shown to be the vehicle’s title owner, although Mark maintained it and had the key. The court entered an order of civil forfeiture, finding Petra’s testimony not credible, and that she consented to Mark driving, knowing he was intoxicated and did not have a valid license. The court rejected her claim that forfeiture constituted an as-applied violation of the Eighth Amendment's excessive fines clause. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Petra’s culpability in Mark’s aggravated DUI was far more than negligible and she did not establish the motorcycle’s value for purposes of showing disproportionality. View "Hartrich v. 2010 Harley-Davidson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Corey Franklin pled guilty to one count of first-degree, willful and deliberate murder, the only offense currently designated as a “capital felony,” in exchange for life in prison with a possibility of parole. Due to his first-degree murder conviction, Defendant was subject to sentencing pursuant to Section 31-18-14. See § 30-2-1(A). Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year period of parole after serving thirty years in prison. Prior to sentencing, Defendant filed a motion seeking the opportunity to present mitigating evidence which could eventually shorten his sentence. While Defendant acknowledged that Section 31-18-14 did not expressly provide an opportunity to present mitigating evidence at the time of sentencing to those convicted of first-degree murder, he argued that this violated his due process rights under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution and his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under Article II, Section 13 of the New Mexico Constitution. In his motion, Defendant noted that persons convicted of a lesser offense are provided with an opportunity to present mitigating circumstances at sentencing, which places them in a stronger position for parole than first-degree murderers. The district court denied Defendant’s motion to declare Section 31-18-14 7 unconstitutional and concluded that it was within the Legislature’s authority to decline to provide the opportunity to present evidence of mitigating circumstances to the most serious offenders. The district court entered final judgment and sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment with the possibility of a five-year 11 period of parole after he served thirty years in prison. On appeal, Defendant abandoned his constitutional arguments, and instead challenged the sentencing distinction on equal protection grounds. The New Mexico Supreme Court concluded that defendants convicted of first-degree murder and those convicted of lesser offenses are not similarly situated, and consequently, Section 31-18-14 did not violated Defendant’s constitutional right to equal protection. View "New Mexico v. Franklin" on Justia Law