Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s order denying Appellants’ separate motions to suppress evidence. As grounds for their motions, Appellants claimed that law enforcement officers violated the curtilage of their apartment when they entered the back patio enclosure and that the officers lacked any exigencies to enter the apartment and conduct the search. The trial court ruled that the protective sweep exception, the emergency aid exception, and the plain view exception all justified the warrantless search. The court of appeals affirmed on different grounds, concluding that none of the exceptions relied upon by the trial court excused the warrantless search but that a second search was conducted pursuant to Appellants’ valid consents, thus purging the taint of the officers’ initial illegal search. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the officers’ initial warrantless search of Appellants’ apartment was illegal; (2) the officers were unlawfully located on Appellants’ patio when they viewed marijuana baggies; and (3) Appellants’ consent to a subsequent search was not an act of free will sufficient to dissipate the taint of the initial illegal search. View "Pace v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court finding Appellant guilty of escape and fleeing or evading police and finding him to be a first-degree persistent felony offender. The trial court sentenced Appellant to fifteen years’ in prison. On appeal, the court of appeals rejected Appellant’s argument that the trial court erred in failing to strike a juror for cause. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Appellant’s motion to strike the juror at issue for cause. View "Morrison v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The issue in this case was created by a 2016 amendment of the look-back period in Ky. Rev. Stat. 189A.010, Kentucky’s principal driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) statute. The amendment increased the look-back period from five years to ten years. In separate prosecutions, Defendants were charged with DUI, fourth offense, for offenses that occurred after the newly-amended version of section 189A.010 became effective. Both defendants had prior convictions for DUI offenses beyond the five-year look-back period of the former law but within the ten-year look-back period of the current law. The circuit court concluded that the convictions exceeding the former five-year look-back period could not be used to elevate the current DUI charges to DUI, fourth offense because doing so would violate contractual rights established in Defendants’ plea agreements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred by excluding Defendants’ 2009 and 2011 offenses from use as enhancing prior DUI convictions because (1) plea agreement contract principles do not bar application of the new rules; and (2) the alternative grounds relied upon by Defendants for affirming the trial court’s decision were unavailing. View "Commonwealth v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion filed after Appellant was found guilty of three counts of murder, first-degree burglary, and first-degree robbery. In his Rule 60.02 motion, Appellant argued that several of the Commonwealth’s witnesses gave perjured testimony and that the prosecutor committed fraud upon the court. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of the motion, holding (1) Appellant’s claims of witnesses’ perjury did not entitle him to Rule 60.02 relief because the named witnesses did not commit perjury, and even they had committed perjury, there was no reasonable certainty that the result would have been different; and (2) the prosecutor did not commit fraud, and even if he had, Appellant’s defense was not impeded. View "Meece v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment convicting and sentencing Defendant to twenty years’ imprisonment for first-degree robbery, receiving stolen property, first-degree possession of a controlled substance, and possession of marijuana. The court held (1) the trial court did not err by permitting the victim to make an in-court identification of Defendant and by refusing to give an instruction for the lesser-included offense of facilitation to first-degree robbery; (2) there was sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of receiving stolen property based on a stolen handgun; and (3) the Commonwealth’s questioning of Defendant regarding his violent past did not constitute palpable error. View "Fairley v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of Lonnie Conyers, Roy Tucker, and Joseph Hardy. Defendants were all found guilty of two counts of first-degree burglary following a joint jury trial. Each defendant was sentenced as a first-degree persistent felony offender (PFO) to concurrent, twenty-year terms of imprisonment. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) juror and witness misconduct did not necessitate a mistrial; (2) the trial court did not err by refusing to dismiss the first-degree burglary charges and by failing to give a jury instruction on receiving stolen property as a lesser, alternative offense to burglary; (3) Hardy was not entitled to a jury instruction on the defense of voluntary intoxication; and (4) the trial court did not err during the PFO proceedings by refusing to exclude evidence of one of Conyers’s prior felonies. View "Conyers v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment convicting Appellant of first-degree sexual abuse and sentencing him to six years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Appellant argued that he was denied a fair and impartial jury due to the jury foreman being the brother-in-law of an assistant Commonwealth attorney. At issue before the Supreme Court was the trial court and Court of Appeals’ faulty conclusion that the jury foreman - and other panelists - disclosed a relationship with the assistant Commonwealth attorney. The Supreme Court concluded (1) the actions of the trial judge and defense counsel undermine the conclusion that defense counsel was made aware that the foreman had a relationship with the attorney; and (2) because Appellant never had the opportunity to challenge the assistant Commonwealth attorney’s presence on the jury, he was entitled to a new trial. View "Edmondson v. Kentucky" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Dewayne Clark and Garr Keith Hardin (collectively, Appellees) were convicted of the 1992 murder of a young woman. In 2009, the Innocence Project, Inc. and the Department of Public Advocacy Kentucky Innocence Project agreed to represent Appellees to secure DNA testing of evidence found on the victim. The trial court denied Appellees’ motion for release of the evidence for DNA analysis. The Supreme Court reversed, ruling that Appellees were entitled to the testing. On remand, the circuit court granted Appellees’ motion, vacated Appellees’ convictions due to newly discovered evidence, and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, considering the new evidence at issue, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in vacating Appellees’ convictions and in granting a new trial. View "Commonwealth v. Clark" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to twenty years’ imprisonment for murder and tampering with physical evidence. The court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by permitting the introduction of expert testimony regarding historical data analysis of cell phone and cell tower records; (2) the trial court’s admission of a detective’s statement regarding Defendant’s credibility was harmless error; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting photographs of the victim’s body; (4) Defendant’s incriminating pretrial statements were properly admitted; (5) the trial court properly instructed the jury; and (6) the Commonwealth correctly defined reasonable doubt during voir dire. View "Holbrook v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to death for the rape and murder of Pamela Armstrong. On appeal, Defendant raised thirty-three claims of error, the first and most compelling of which is that the trial court committed reversible error when it allowed the Commonwealth to admit other bad acts evidence of Defendant under Ky. R. Evid. 404(b). The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing evidence of Defendant’s prior murder convictions; and (2) the remainder of Defendant’s allegations of error did not warrant reversal. View "White v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law