Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of raping and murdering Pamela Armstrong and sentencing Defendant to death. The Court held (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Appellant as addressed by Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) the trial court’s failure to define the terms “modus operandi” and “identity evidence” in the jury instructions did not violate Appellant’s due process rights; (3) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s refusal to suppress Defendant’s DNA sample; (4) there was no error in the trial judge’s refusal to disqualify himself from presiding over Appellant’s trial; (5) Appellant was not entitled to a new trial on the grounds that the trial court improperly admitted unreliable evidence; (6) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not require reversal; and (7) Appellant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of raping and murdering Pamela Armstrong and sentencing Defendant to death. The Court held (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Appellant as addressed by Ky. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) the trial court’s failure to define the terms “modus operandi” and “identity evidence” in the jury instructions did not violate Appellant’s due process rights; (3) there was no reversible error in the trial court’s refusal to suppress Defendant’s DNA sample; (4) there was no error in the trial judge’s refusal to disqualify himself from presiding over Appellant’s trial; (5) Appellant was not entitled to a new trial on the grounds that the trial court improperly admitted unreliable evidence; (6) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not require reversal; and (7) Appellant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Section 115 of the Kentucky Constitution bars the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. Here, the Commonwealth appealed Defendant’s judgment of acquittal on the charge of failing to register a change of address with the Sex Offender Registry. The Commonwealth argued that its appeal was not barred by section 115 because Defendant’s judgment of acquittal was based not on the jury’s verdict but on the trial court’s issuance of a judgment of acquittal. The court of appeals allowed the appeal to proceed and reversed the trial court’s judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 115 prevents the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal. The Court overruled any precedent stating that section 115 derives itself from section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution and that the Commonwealth may appeal a judgment non-obstante verdicto (n.o.v.). View "Maupin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Section 115 of the Kentucky Constitution bars the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. Here, the Commonwealth appealed Defendant’s judgment of acquittal on the charge of failing to register a change of address with the Sex Offender Registry. The Commonwealth argued that its appeal was not barred by section 115 because Defendant’s judgment of acquittal was based not on the jury’s verdict but on the trial court’s issuance of a judgment of acquittal. The court of appeals allowed the appeal to proceed and reversed the trial court’s judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 115 prevents the Commonwealth from appealing a judgment of acquittal. The Court overruled any precedent stating that section 115 derives itself from section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution and that the Commonwealth may appeal a judgment non-obstante verdicto (n.o.v.). View "Maupin v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals misapplied the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel standard by failing to consider the totality of the circumstances of Defendant’s case from the perspective of an objectively reasonable trial attorney. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 post-conviction motion for a new sentencing-phase trial based upon ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The court of appeals ruled that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising Defendant to enter into a sentencing agreement with the Commonwealth to waive jury sentencing and accept a plea agreement under which he was sentenced to the maximum penalty to avoid potential risks to his parole eligibility and meritorious credit against his sentence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals placed too much emphasis on Defendant’s agreeing to the maximum penalty. As to Defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion for relief for ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, the argument was without merit. View "Commonwealth v. Helm" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals misapplied the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel standard by failing to consider the totality of the circumstances of Defendant’s case from the perspective of an objectively reasonable trial attorney. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 post-conviction motion for a new sentencing-phase trial based upon ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The court of appeals ruled that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising Defendant to enter into a sentencing agreement with the Commonwealth to waive jury sentencing and accept a plea agreement under which he was sentenced to the maximum penalty to avoid potential risks to his parole eligibility and meritorious credit against his sentence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals placed too much emphasis on Defendant’s agreeing to the maximum penalty. As to Defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion for relief for ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, the argument was without merit. View "Commonwealth v. Helm" on Justia Law

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In this case involving an alleged denial of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel, the Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly denied trial counsel’s motion to withdraw because, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant failed to demonstrate that his lawyer was burdened by an actual conflict of interest during his representation of Defendant. Defendant was convicted of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender. Once Defendant’s attorney discovered that he had a potential conflict, he filed a motion to withdraw as Defendant’s attorney. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals ruled that the trial court erred by failing to grant counsel’s motion to withdraw and reversed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding that Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to conflict-free counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Muchrison" on Justia Law

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In this case involving an alleged denial of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel, the Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly denied trial counsel’s motion to withdraw because, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant failed to demonstrate that his lawyer was burdened by an actual conflict of interest during his representation of Defendant. Defendant was convicted of first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and of being a first-degree persistent felony offender. Once Defendant’s attorney discovered that he had a potential conflict, he filed a motion to withdraw as Defendant’s attorney. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals ruled that the trial court erred by failing to grant counsel’s motion to withdraw and reversed Defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated Defendant’s conviction and sentence, holding that Defendant was not denied his constitutional right to conflict-free counsel. View "Commonwealth v. Muchrison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the trial court’s suppression of evidence discovered as a result of a canine sniff search of Defendant’s vehicle during a traffic stop. The Court held that the court of appeals did not err by concluding (1) the stop of Defendant’s vehicle was proper, but the sniff search improperly extended the traffic stop; (2) the traffic stop was the only legal justification for stopping Defendant; and (3) the Commonwealth failed to preserve for appellate review its claim that Defendant’s parole status subjected him to a warrantless and suspicionless search and seizure. View "Commonwealth v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the trial court’s suppression of evidence discovered as a result of a canine sniff search of Defendant’s vehicle during a traffic stop. The Court held that the court of appeals did not err by concluding (1) the stop of Defendant’s vehicle was proper, but the sniff search improperly extended the traffic stop; (2) the traffic stop was the only legal justification for stopping Defendant; and (3) the Commonwealth failed to preserve for appellate review its claim that Defendant’s parole status subjected him to a warrantless and suspicionless search and seizure. View "Commonwealth v. Smith" on Justia Law