Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Ale Majetic appealed after a jury found him guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition. Majetic argued his right to an impartial jury was violated when, after a 56-day continuance, the district court failed to inquire whether the jury had formed an opinion in the case or had been influenced by the media. He also argued the court abused its discretion in commenting on his expert witness's testimony. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not commit obvious error, and affirmed the judgment. View "North Dakota v. Majetic" on Justia Law

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Steven Newark, Jr. appealed after a jury found him guilty of burglary, terrorizing, and criminal mischief. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Newark's motion for a continuance or a dismissal. Furthermore, the Court concluded there was no abuse of discretion in allowing the State to call a police officer to testify in rebuttal and in delaying its ruling whether other officers would be allowed to testify in rebuttal. View "North Dakota v. Newark" on Justia Law

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Mark Rath appealed a district court order denying his petition to correct his sentence or declare a "mistrial" based on his claim of prejudicial sentencing. A supervisory writ is issued rarely and cautiously only to rectify errors and prevent injustice in extraordinary cases when no adequate alternative remedy exists. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Rath's petition under N.D.R.Crim.P. 35 because his sentence was not illegal. The Court treated his request on appeal, however, as a request for a writ of supervision based on the district court's oral pronouncement during his resentencing in 2012 for a felony that he would keep his "misdemeanor disposition." The Court concluded this was an appropriate case to exercise its discretionary supervisory jurisdiction. The Court remanded with instructions for the district court to direct the clerk of district court to change the disposition of this case to a misdemeanor under N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-02(9). View "North Dakota v. Rath" on Justia Law

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The State appealed an order granting Steven Helm's motion to dismiss a criminal prosecution against him for refusing to submit to a warrantless urine test incident to arrest. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the State could not criminally prosecute Helm for refusing to submit to the warrantless urine test incident to arrest. View "North Dakota v. Helm" on Justia Law

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Robert Pulkrabek appealed the district court's judgment after a jury found him guilty of theft of property. Pulkrabek argued the district court erred when it did not tell the jury it had to unanimously agree on which theory of theft it believed he committed beyond a reasonable doubt. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding that a jury was not required to unanimously agree upon which action the defendant committed under the subsections of N.D.C.C. 12.1.-23-02. View "North Dakota v. Pulkrabek" on Justia Law

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A district court's decision on a motion for mistrial will not be reversed on appeal absent a showing the court abused its discretion or that a manifest injustice would occur. The cumulative effect of multiple errors may be productive of a manifest injustice which requires the district court to declare a mistrial. Brady Blotske appealed a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition, felonious restraint, and terrorizing. During the testimony of one of the detectives, the State offered the video interview of Blotske and stated, "pursuant to the previous stipulation where we admitted the tape, I would like to play about 13 minutes of the interview where they actually get into the specifics." The State played the video for the jury. Blotske's counsel objected because the video began to play content the parties had agreed to omit. The district court permitted the State to address the jury about the statement. Blotske requested a mistrial just before the second day of trial was set to begin. Blotske's counsel argued the statements on the video were prejudicial and when the State addressed the jury about the statements, it brought further attention to the misinformation and tainted the jury beyond repair. The State resisted the motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in denying Blotske's request for a mistrial, reverseed and remanded for a new trial. View "North Dakota v. Blotske" on Justia Law

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Under North Dakota Rules of Evidence 804, it does not matter that the defendant may have had significantly less incentive to cross-examine the witness at the preliminary examination hearing than at the trial, the testimony is permissible at trial if it meets the requirements under the rule. If a prior consistent statement is to be admitted under Rule 801(d)(1)(B), the declarant must testify and be subject to cross-examination at the trial or hearing at which it is being offered. Duane Azure, Jr., appealed a criminal judgment after a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault. A deputy observed Yvette Belgarde lying on the floor in the living room when responding to a 911 call to the Azure residence. The deputy requested an ambulance to the residence and Belgarde was transported to the local emergency room. Her initial explanation to law enforcement and medical personnel about her injuries was that she fell on the deck. Approximately two weeks later, while in the hospital, Belgarde contacted law enforcement and stated her injuries were not caused by falling on the deck, but by Azure assaulting her. Belgarde was interviewed by Agent Allen Kluth of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Belgarde restated to Agent Kluth that Azure had assaulted her and that she was afraid to say anything at first. Azure was subsequently charged with aggravated assault. Prior to trial, Belgarde died from causes unrelated to the assault. Azure argued the district court abused its discretion by allowing two prior statements of the State's witness into evidence at trial. Because the district court abused its discretion in allowing the victim's prior statement to police into evidence under North Dakota Rules of Evidence 801(d)(1)(B), the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "North Dakota v. Azure" on Justia Law

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Summary dismissal is normally inappropriate for post-conviction relief claims arguing ineffective assistance of counsel because such claims typically require development of a record in an evidentiary hearing. Lorry Chase appealed an order denying his application for post-conviction relief. In 2013, Chase was charged with one count of gross sexual imposition (a class AA felony), for an assault occurring in 2007. In 2014, a jury convicted Chase of the charge, and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed his conviction on appeal. After review of Chase's application for post-conviction relief, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in summarily dismissing his application, claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel, because genuine issues of material fact existed precluding summary disposition. View "Chase v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Shawn Teggatz appealed after a jury found him guilty of reckless endangerment and fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the verdicts were supported by substantial evidence and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it did not permit Teggatz to testify about his mechanic's out-of-court statements, it affirmed the criminal judgment. View "North Dakota v. Teggatz" on Justia Law

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When a district court error has been waived or invited in a criminal case, the obvious error analysis under N.D.R.Crim.P. 52(b) does not apply. Eybon Watkins appealed after a jury found him guilty of robbery and the district court imposed upon him a four-year mandatory minimum sentence as an armed offender. Watkins argues that the district court erred in applying the mandatory minimum sentence for armed offenders in this case because the jury was not required to find that he possessed a firearm, and this error rises to the level of obvious error under N.D.R.Crim.P. 52(b). The North Dakota Supreme Court determined this case did not involve a forfeited error: the issue about the verdict form and the mandatory minimum sentence question was discussed by the parties before, during, and after the trial. Watkins agreed to leave the question off the verdict form as a matter of trial strategy. This error was waived, and the obvious error analysis under N.D.R.Crim.P. 52(b) did not apply. View "North Dakota v. Watkins" on Justia Law