Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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The State alleged Ibrahim Ahmed Mohammed knocked on E.W.’s apartment door, and when she opened it, forced himself inside. He appealed after a bench trial found him guilty of gross sexual imposition, arguing the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for acquittal because the “force” element of the crime was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the district court improperly reduced the standard for “force” based on the view that E.W. was a vulnerable adult. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Mohammed" on Justia Law

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Blain Ovind appealed after a jury found him guilty of two counts of construction fraud, two counts of acting as a contractor without a license, and one count of disobedience of a judicial order. On appeal, Ovind argued the district court erred by denying his requests for court-appointed counsel, and his convictions should have been reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Ovind" on Justia Law

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Henry Marcum appealed following a bench trial found him guilty of a lesser included offense of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. On appeal, Marcum argued the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence from what he argued was an unconstitutional arrest, and the evidence was insufficient to convict him. Marcum requested that the verdict be reversed or that the North Dakota Supreme Court vacate the verdict and reverse the district court order denying his motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed denial of the motion to suppress because law enforcement acted in good faith on the arrest warrant and representations about its validity. Furthermore, the Court affirmed the criminal judgment because sufficient evidence supported finding Marcum had a prior conviction for an equivalent offense, and the residue in the pipe found supported the conviction for possession of methamphetamine. View "North Dakota v. Marcum" on Justia Law

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Kelvin McAllister was convicted by jury of assault. On appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, McAllister claimed his right to an impartial jury was violated. He argued the district court erred when it denied various challenges for cause he made because jurors either knew the prosecuting attorney or had been the prosecuting attorney’s clients. He also claimed that due to the aggregate effect of the jurors’ familiarity with the prosecutor the court should have granted his motion for a mistrial. McAllister also claimed multiple errors with respect to the trial court’s admission of certain evidence, and in instructing the jury. The Supreme Court determined there was no evidence in the record that any of the jurors were clients of the prosecuting attorney at the time of trial. The jurors who stated they knew the prosecuting attorney or were familiar with him all affirmed they would be impartial. Furthermore, the Court determined McAllister did not show a material departure from “the forms prescribed by law in respect to the drawing and return of the jury, or on the intentional omission of the sheriff to summon one or more of the jurors drawn.” The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied McAllister’s challenges for cause, for denying a mistrial, admitting evidence relating to restitution, or in instructing the jury. View "North Dakota v. McAllister" on Justia Law

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Mark Pagenkopf appealed a district court’s amended criminal judgment awarding restitution. In March 2019, Pagenkopf pleaded guilty to unlawful entry into a vehicle and theft of property under $500. In October 2018, Pagenkopf broke into the victim’s 2005 Chrysler Sebring and damaged the radio, speedometer glass, and HVAC controls. He also stole $400 worth of property from the trunk of the car. The State sought restitution for the damages caused by Pagenkopf. Before the restitution hearing was held, the victim was involved in a car accident. As a result, the victim’s car was totaled, and the victim was paid $2,000 from insurance. The damages to the victim’s car caused by Pagenkopf had not been repaired before the accident. On appeal, Pagenkopf argued the district court abused its discretion in awarding restitution because the victim did not incur any actual expenses because she did not repair the damages and because her car was subsequently totaled. Pagenkopf further argued the court erred in determining N.D. Const. art. I, section 25 prohibited it from considering that the victim’s car was totaled subsequent to the damages caused by Pagenkopf. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to consider the subsequent accident and awarding $2,314.35 in restitution. View "North Dakota v. Pagenkopf" on Justia Law

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The State charged Nicholas Gratton after an incident occurred in December 2018. He was charged with simple assault–domestic violence, terrorizing–domestic violence, theft of property, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. After considering the complaint and testimony presented, the district court dismissed the class C felony theft of property count, finding the charge lacked probable cause. The State appealed. The North Dakota Supreme Court found, after a review of the trial court record, the State produced sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for a charge of class C felony theft. The Supreme Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Gratton" on Justia Law

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Lansana Sah appealed after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition and child abuse following denial of a motion for new trial. In 2017, an eleven year old middle school student disclosed to a counselor she and her siblings had been abused by their mother and stepfather, Sah. Sah was tried in 2019. Sah moved for a new trial, arguing his motion under N.D.R.Crim.P. 29 should have been granted because the instances of abuse other than the “peppering” were inadmissible. The motion was denied. He appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, arguing the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of abuse other than the peppering, because these incidents were "prior bad acts," and the court did not give a cautionary instruction to the jury. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined these arguments went beyond the scope of those argued in the motion for a new trial. That motion "did not state with particularity how or why the evidence was inadmissible, and did not city to any legal authority." Sah's conclusory arguments that evidence was not admissible did not preserve the issue he raised before the Supreme Court on appeal. View "North Dakota v. Sah" on Justia Law

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Mandie Le Ekstrom appealed after a jury found her guilty of driving under the influence. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in denying her motion to dismiss on state and federal constitutional double jeopardy grounds. However, the Court found the court erred in sentencing her because the jury did not find her chemical breath test result was .16 or greater. Therefore, conviction was affirmed, but the sentence was vacated and the matter was remanded for resentencing. View "City of West Fargo v. Ekstrom" on Justia Law

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Branden Lyon appealed from an amended criminal judgment sentencing him to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. In October 2015, Lyon was charged with attempted murder, terrorizing, terrorizing-domestic violence, and illegal possession of a firearm. These charges stemmed from a 2015 incident during which Lyon barricaded himself in a home and had an extended encounter with police officers. At one point during the encounter, Lyon shot at the police officers who had surrounded the home. A jury found Lyon guilty on all counts. On appeal, Lyon argued there was insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions, and the district court erred by not adequately considering the sentencing factors set forth in statute. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Lyon" on Justia Law

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Randy Jensen appealed a district court order denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined Jensen was not given seven days to respond to the State’s answer brief under N.D.R.Ct. 3.2(a)(2), it reversed the district court order and remanded for an opportunity to respond. View "North Dakota v. Jensen" on Justia Law