Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Missouri

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Defendant's Rule 29.15 motion for post conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Defendant failed to plead facts showing his counsel was ineffective. In his Rule 29.15 motion Defendant claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to seek suppression of methamphetamine found during a warrantless search of a cigarette pack seized from his pocket on the grounds that the search occurred thirty minutes after his arrest in an area outside his immediate control. The motion court overruled the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the search of Defendant's cigarette was a lawful search incident to arrest, and therefore, Defendant failed to plead facts showing his counsel was ineffective in not challenging the search. View "Greene v. State" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the circuit court's finding that D.C.M. committed an act that, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the felony of making a terrorist threat in the second degree, the Supreme Court remanded this case to the circuit court for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether counsel was ineffective and otherwise affirmed the judgment, holding that the record was insufficient to determine whether counsel was ineffective. D.C.M. was sitting in a school cafeteria when he told another student that he felt like "blowing the school up" or wanted to see how it felt to "shoot the school up." Based on this evidence, the circuit court placed D.C.M. in the custody of the division of youth services for an indefinite term. The Supreme Court held (1) D.C.M.'s ineffective assistance of counsel claims could not be addressed on direct appeal because the record was insufficient to address these claims; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying counsel's request for a continuance; and (3) there was sufficient evidence for the circuit court to find beyond a reasonable doubt that D.C.M. committed an act which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted the felony of making a terrorist threat in the second degree. View "D.C.M. v. Pemiscot County Juvenile Office" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court finding Defendant guilty of the first-degree murder of a ten-year-old girl and sentencing him to death, holding that none of Defendant's assignments of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by (1) overruling Defendant's objection to the admission of photographs from the victim's cellphone; (2) admitting gun evidence found in Defendant's home; (3) admitting the contents of a folder containing photos of Defendant's female, middle school students and accounts of fictional sexual encounters with thirteen-year-old girls; (4) admitting victim impact evidence; (5) permitting the State to argue during closing argument that the jury could speak for the victim and her family by sentencing Defendant to death; and (6) sustaining the State's motion to strike a venire person for cause during the death qualification voir dire. Further, Defendant's constitutional arguments were unavailing, and Defendant's death sentence met all the statutory requirements. View "State v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court accepting Defendant's guilty plea to first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and armed criminal action and sentencing him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, holding that Defendant's counsel was effective and that Defendant's plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. After the circuit court imposed the sentence Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief alleging, among other things, that his counsel was ineffective, and therefore, his plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was not coerced into accepting the State's plea agreement; (2) Defendant was competent to plead guilty; and (3) counsel was not ineffective for declining to seek a second competency examination. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the labor and industrial relations commission affirming the award of the administrative law judge (ALJ) determining that Douglas Cosby was not entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits from the second injury fund pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 287.220.3, holding that the commission did not err and that section 287.220.3, as applied to Cosby, does not violate the open courts provision or Cosby's due process and equal protection rights. Cosby injured his knee during the course of his employment. Cosby filed a workers' compensation claim against his employer and the second injury fund alleging that he was disabled as a result of his knee injury combined with his preexisting disabilities. An ALJ denied benefits, and the commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the commission properly interpreted section 287.220 to find that Cosby was not entitled to PPD benefits from the fund because his knee injury occurred after January 1, 2014; and (2) interpreting section 287.220.3(2) to not provide PPD benefits from the fund does not violate the Missouri open courts provision or Defendant's due process or equal protection rights. View "Cosby v. Treasurer of the State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the motion court overruling Appellant's Mo. R. Crim. P. 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, holding that Appellant's claims of error were unavailing. After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of one count of first-degree murder for the death of a Missouri highway patrolman. The jury was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. The circuit court subsequently conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Thereafter, Appellant filed his Rule 29.15 motion. The motion court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that counsel were not ineffective in failing to question Juror 58 during voir dire about the provocative and violent novel he admitted writing and in failing to call other jurors in support of Appellant's motion for new trial. View "Shockley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a petition seeking a declaratory judgment that Governor Michael Parson's appointment of Mike Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor was unauthorized under Mo. Rev. Stat. 105.030, holding that Darrell Cope had standing and that the Governor has the authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor in the event of a vacancy. The Governor Eric Greitens resigned and Governor Parson succeeded Greitens to the office of Governor, the office of Lieutenant Governor was left vacant. Governor Parson appointed Kehoe to be the Lieutenant Governor. Darrell Cope and the Missouri Democratic Party (MDP) filed a petition seeking injunctive and declaratory relief alleging that Governor Parson lacked legal authority to appoint a Lieutenant Governor. The circuit court dismissed the petition, concluding that Cope and the MDO did not have standing to challenging Governor Parson's appointment of Kehoe. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Cope had taxpayer standing to seek a declaratory judgment in this case; and (2) Mo. Const. Art. IV, 4 controls the authority of the Governor to appoint a Lieutenant Governor, and Governor Parson was within his constitutional authority when he appointed Kehoe to the office of Lieutenant Governor. View "Cope v. Parson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court declaring House Bill No. 2007 (HB2007), an appropriations statute, to be unconstitutional and enjoining the State from terminating Plaintiff's employment on the basis of the severed language, holding that restricting funding for the payment of an administrative law judge's (ALJ) salary based on that ALJ's date of appointment violates the separation of powers requirement of the Missouri Constitution. The circuit court declared certain provisions of HB2007 unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff, an ALJ, severed the unconstitutional language from the statute, and permanently enjoined the State from terminating Plaintiff's employment pursuant to the unconstitutional language. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that HB2007 is unconstitutional to the extent that it restricts the use of funds for the payment of ALJ salaries based on the ALJ's date of appointment, as applied to Plaintiff, and therefore, Plaintiff was entitled to declaratory relief and the permanent injunction he sought in this case. View "Rebman v. Parson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case resulting in Defendant's convictions of first- and second-degree murder and sentence of death for the first-degree murder and life imprisonment for the second-degree murder, holding that Defendant's second-degree murder conviction must be reversed and that the judgment on the first-degree murder must be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court erred when it refused to submit Defendant's proposed jury instructions for second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could find that Defendant acted out of sudden passion arising from adequate cause; (2) the circuit court erred in admitting statements made in violation of Defendant's Miranda rights, but the error was harmless; (3) the circuit court violated Defendant's right to due process by admitting evidence of his post-Miranda silence, but those violations were harmless; and (4) the circuit court erred when it overruled Defendant's objection to the State's penalty phase closing argument in which the State made an impermissible reference to Defendant's decision not to testify, and this error required the judgment on the first-degree murder to be reversed as to the penalty phase of the trial. View "State v. Rice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court, after a bench trial, finding Defendant “not guilty” of felony sexual misconduct involving a child by indecent exposure because the statute under which he was charged was unconstitutionally overbroad as applied to Defendant’s case, holding that, based on the record, the Court was unable to ascertain the precise nature of the circuit court’s ruling. On appeal, the State argued that the circuit court’s judgment was equivalent to a dismissal of the indictment following a guilty verdict, and therefore, Defendant was not acquitted of the offense. In response, Defendant argued that the circuit court’s judgment was a judgment of acquittal because the circuit court expressly found him not guilty. Therefore, Defendant argued, the appeal was barred by double jeopardy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions to enter a new judgment, holding that the Court could not consider the appeal or motion to dismiss on the merits because the Court was unable to determine if the judgment was an acquittal or a dismissal. View "State v. Ward" on Justia Law