Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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The Department of Environmental Protection granted DCP Midstream Partners, LP, a permit to construct a liquefied petroleum gas terminal near Searsport. Thanks But No Tank and several individuals (collectively TBNT) sought review of the Department's decision. The superior court affirmed. Four months after TBNT filed its notice of appeal, DCP withdrew its municipal application and petitioned the Department to surrender the permits. The Department granted DCP's petition. The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed this appeal as moot and (1) declined to vacate the judgment of the superior court, and (2) denied TBNT's motion for costs, as it was not a prevailing party pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 1501. View "Thanks But No Tank v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of two counts of aggravated trafficking of a schedule W drug within one thousand feet of a school and of twice violating the conditions of his release in a related case. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction on direct appeal. Defendant subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction review, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation to discover three recent pending criminal matters against a key witness and in failing to impeach the credibility of the witness on that basis. The post-conviction court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record supported the court's finding that defense counsel provided effective assistance regarding the witness' second and third criminal matters; and (2) the court did not err in concluding that discovering and impeaching the witness on the first criminal matter likely would not have affected the outcome of the trial. View "Lamarre v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted on charges of burglary and theft. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to three search warrants for Defendant's house, garage, and car. The superior court granted the motion to suppress, concluding that the first affidavit did not establish probable cause for a search and that the evidence seized pursuant to the third search warrant, which allowed officers to search Defendant's house again after the initial search, must be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court affirmed the suppression of the evidence obtained in the three searches, holding (1) the first affidavit provided an insufficient basis for a finding of probable cause; (2) the officers' reliance on the warrants was not objectively reasonable; and (3) because the third warrant relied heavily on observations officers made while executing the first warrant, the evidence seized pursuant to that warrant must also be suppressed. View "State v. Johndro" on Justia Law

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This case involved three Enhanced 9-1-1 (E-9-1-1) calls regarding an altercation that resulted in three people being shot. MaineToday Media, Inc. sent a series of requests to inspect and copy the three transcripts to the police department, state police, attorney general, and others. The State denied the requests, claiming that the transcripts constituted "intelligence and investigative information" in a pending criminal matter and were therefore confidential under the Criminal History Record Information Act. MaineToday filed suit against the State, arguing that the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) mandated disclosure of the transcripts as public records and that no exception to their disclosure applied. The superior court affirmed the State's denial of MaineToday's request. The Supreme Court vacated the lower court's judgment, holding that the E-9-1-1 transcripts, as redacted pursuant to 25 Me. Rev. Stat. 2929(2)-(3), were public records subject to disclosure under the FOAA. View "MaineToday Media, Inc. v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated assault, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, criminal restraint, and violation of a condition of release. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence related to the events that preceded Defendant's arrest; (2) the trial court did not err in admitting testimony regarding the methods the police used to compile a photographic array that was shown to the victim; and (3) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct by improperly vouching for the victim's credibility during closing argument because, viewed in context, the prosecutor's statement was not witness-vouching or otherwise improper. View "State v. Hassan" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated attempted murder, aggravated criminal mischief, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, eluding an officer, and theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the trial court erred when it failed, sua sponte, to instruct the jury on self-defense and voluntary intoxication, and (2) the trial court erred when it did not conduct a colloquy directly with him to confirm he knowingly and voluntarily chose not to testify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant waived jury instructions on self-defense and intoxication, and therefore, the trial court did not commit obvious error by not instructing on those defenses; and (2) Defendant waived his right to testify, and therefore, the trial court committed no error here by confirming the election not to testify through counsel. View "State v. Ford" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who was eighteen years old at the time, was badly injured in a single-vehicle accident. While she lay sedated at the hospital, a police trooper, without providing Miranda warnings, questioned Defendant about the car accident, seeking information as to who was driving. After a pause in the questioning, the trooper told Defendant that two of her friends who had been in the car were dead and urged Defendant to tell the truth about who was driving. Defendant subsequently made inculpatory statements. Defendant was indicted on two counts of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated criminal OUI, and one count of leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to suppress as to all statements Defendant made after the pause in the interview, concluding (1) at that point, Defendant became a suspect and was in custody because she reasonably did not believe that she was free to terminate the interview; and (2) consequently, Defendant should have been given Miranda warnings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that Defendant's statements throughout were voluntary but that Defendant was in custody after the break in the interview. View "State v. Lowe" on Justia Law

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After a jury-waived trial, Appellant was convicted of aggravated criminal trespass and unlawful sexual contact. Appellant appealed his conviction, contending that, because he was motivated by his subconscious thoughts, was experiencing a blackout, and was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol during the encounter with the victim, he was not consciously aware of his acts and therefore did not act with the requisite culpable state of mind when he entered the victim's dwelling without her permission and subjected her to sexual contact without her consent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in this instance, substantial evidence existed to show that Appellant's actions were taken knowingly and with intent. View "State v. Kepner" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of domestic violence assault. Defendant appealed, arguing that the State's closing argument contained comments that impermissibly drew attention to her decision not to testify in her own defense. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the prosecutor's statements were accurate recitations of the state of the evidence and did not expressly or implicitly comment on Defendant's failure to testify or suggest that the evidence must be accepted because it was unrebutted; and (2) therefore, the statements did not constitute misconduct. View "State v. Bean" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of theft by misapplication of property and securities fraud. Defendant appealed, contending that the court's jury instructions impermissibly shifted the burden of proof onto him to prove his innocence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the burden of proof was not improperly shifted onto Defendant to prove his innocence where (1) there was no obvious error in the instructions the trial court gave because, as a whole, the instructions correctly stated the law; and (2) the court correctly stated the State's burden of proof and Defendant's presumption of innocence several times during the jury selection, at the beginning of the trial, in its final instructions, and in its written instructions sent to the jury room. View "State v. Philbrook" on Justia Law