Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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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

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The State appealed a district court order granting John Hawkins' motion to suppress evidence. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded sufficient, competent evidence supported the district court order suppressing blood test results, and its decision wasnot contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. The Court, therefore, affirmed the district court order suppressing the results of Hawkins' blood test. View "North Dakota v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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Noah Glick appealed after a jury found him guilty of aggravated assault. After voir dire concluded, the parties exercised their peremptory challenges and the jury was selected and sworn, and the remaining prospective jurors were excused. A former prospective juror then approached the bailiff indicating he wished to bring something to the attention of the court. The former prospective juror informed the judge, Glick and the State that during voir dire a juror sitting next to him, juror D.G., leaned over and told him "she had been a victim of an assault by her boyfriend but she said she had gotten over it." The former prospective juror was a lawyer and felt, as an officer of the court, he had to disclose the statement because D.G. did not raise her hand when the State asked if anyone had been in a fight, and she did not answer when Glick asked if anyone had been the victim of an assault. The district court questioned the juror in chambers, while Glick and the State were present. After the district court's additional questions, Glick moved for mistrial based on juror misconduct. The district court denied Glick's motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court found no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in denying the motion for mistrial. View "North Dakota v. Glick" on Justia Law

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Rodney Friesz appealed after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter and arson. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in denying his motion to suppress evidence, and there was sufficient evidence to sustain his convictions for manslaughter and arson. The Court remanded, however, for the district court to correct a clerical error in the criminal judgment because the judgment did not clearly state the jury entered a verdict of guilty to the offenses. View "North Dakota v. Friesz" on Justia Law

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Heather Leavitt appealed a district court order summarily dismissing her application for post-conviction relief. In 2014 a jury convicted Heather Leavitt of attempted murder, for attacking her husband as he slept with a knife. He sustained serious injuries during the ensuing struggle, but was ultimately able to flee to safety. Although he was unable to positively identify his attacker, he described the assailant to authorities as “having a pony-tail, the same stature as his wife [Heather Leavitt].” Leavitt applied for post-conviction relief, arguing she received ineffective assistance of counsel. In April 2016 the State moved for summary disposition, arguing Heather Leavitt failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact. Heather Leavitt filed a motion to stay the determination of the State's motion for summary disposition until she filed a supplemental brief. The district court granted her motion. In May 2016 Heather Leavitt filed a supplemental application, arguing she received ineffective assistance of counsel when the lawyer representing her at trial failed to demand a Franks hearing because the affidavit on which the search warrant relied contained false and misleading statements and because favorable evidence was not presented at trial. The State renewed its motion for summary disposition. In November 2016 the district court granted the State's motion, dismissing Heather Leavitt's application. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that in opposing the State’s motion for summary disposition, an applicant for post-conviction relief may not merely rely on the pleadings or on unsupported conclusory allegations but must present competent admissible evidence by affidavit or other comparable means which raises an issue of material fact. To avoid summary dismissal of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, an applicant for post-conviction relief must present some evidence that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and he must overcome the presumption that his counsel's performance was within the broad range of reasonableness. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Leavitt v. North Dakota" on Justia Law