Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.130(2), which contains what the Court determined was an “outdated test” for ascertaining intellectual disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nearly twenty years ago, Defendant was convicted for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Defendant was sentenced to death. Here, Defendant filed a postconviction motion under section 532.130(2) requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that any rule of law that states that a criminal defendant automatically cannot be ruled intellectually disabled and precluded from execution simply because he or she has an IQ of 71 or above is unconstitutional. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing, make findings, and issue a ruling on the issue of Defendant’s potential intellectual disability following this Court’s and the United States Supreme Court’s guidelines on such a determination, especially as set forth in Moore v. Texas, 137 S.Ct. 1039 (2017). View "Woodall v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court, which denied Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 motion without a hearing. Defendant pled guilty to second-degree terroristic threatening, criminal attempt to commit kidnapping, and other offenses. Upon his release from prison, Defendant learned that he was obligated to register under Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510 as a person who had committed sex crimes or crimes against minors. Defendant filed this Rule 11.42 motion, asserting that counsel had never discussed the sex offender registration requirement with him. The circuit court denied the motion without a hearing, concluding that counsel’s failure to inform his client of the post-conviction registration requirement and the circuit court’s failure to include registration notification in the sentencing order did not warrant action under Rule 11.42. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) counsel’s failure to advise Defendant of the sex offender registration requirement constituted deficient performance; and (2) the case must be remanded to the circuit court to evaluate whether Defendant’s counsel’s deficient performance caused him prejudice. View "Commonwealth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s request to decrease his bond and instead increasing it from $10,000 to $20,000 full cash, holding that the indictment charging Defendant with certain crimes was a change in Defendant’s status sufficient to authorize the circuit court to summarily exercise a new discretion as to the amount of bail. Defendant was arraigned by the district court on a charge of one count of second-degree burglary. The court set Defendant’s bond at $10,000 full cash. Thereafter, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with second-degree burglary and theft by unlawful taking of property valued over $500 but less than $10,000. At the initial hearing, the circuit court fixed a bond “in the interim” at $10,000. Defendant then filed a Ky. R. Crim. P. 4.40(1) motion for bond reduction and for release on bail credit for his jail time. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in modifying Defendant’s bond to $20,000 full cash and denying him bail credit. View "Jeter v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the finding of the district court juvenile session that B.H. was incompetent to stand trial and dismissing the charges against him. B.H. was arrested for first-degree robbery and murder that occurred before he sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident. The Commonwealth moved to transfer B.H.’s case to circuit court. B.H. moved for a competency evaluation. The district court granted B.H.’s motion for a competency evaluation, conducted a competency hearing, and found B.H. incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to attain competency in the foreseeable future. The court then dismissed the charges without prejudice. On appeal, the court of appeals held that the Commonwealth had waived its right to contest any error by failing to object to the competency determination at any stage of litigation prior to discretionary review with the court of appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile session of the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to conduct a competency hearing, and the Commonwealth waived its right to object to lack of particular case jurisdiction; and (2) the federal Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth support holding competency hearings, if necessary, prior to transfer proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. B.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant of four counts first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree rape and Defendant’s sentence of life imprisonment on each sodomy conviction and twenty years’ imprisonment for the rape conviction, holding that none of Defendant’s claims of error warranted reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses was not violated when the prosecutor, with the court’s permission, blocked Defendant from viewing the victim during trial; and (2) any error in the admission of certain testimony did not require reversal. View "Walker v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Defendant on fourteen counts of first-degree robbery and for being a first-degree persistent felony offender. Defendant, along with his co-defendant, was indicted for thirty-one counts of first-degree robbery, one count for each individual victim present at fourteen different robberies that occurred within less than two months. The counts were tried together, and a jury convicted Defendant of fourteen counts of first-degree robbery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by (1) failing to sever some of the thirty-one counts of robbery; (2) permitting three police officers to testify that the robberies were all related to each other; and (3) informing the jury that it had ruled that both defendants should be tried together on all charges. View "Davidson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered in his vehicle during a traffic stop, holding that the initial traffic stop was impermissibly prolonged to allow a canine search to proceed. Therefore, the dog sniff that followed was unreasonable and constitutionally impermissible and must be suppressed. Upon entered a conditional plea, Appellant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, first degree, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Appellant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence found after a canine sniff search indicated the presence of drugs. The Supreme Court reversed the motion to suppress, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, while the initial traffic stop was valid, the stop was unconstitutionally prolonged. View "Moberly v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and vacated Appellant’s conviction and corresponding sentence for tampering with physical evidence but affirmed the trial court as to Appellant’s remaining convictions of murder, first-degree robbery, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. The Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not allow defense counsel to argue in closing that the Commonwealth produced no evidence of motive; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the Commonwealth to introduce unauthenticated call logs, but the error was harmless; (3) the trial court erred in failing to grant a directed verdict as to the tampering with physical evidence charge; and (4) the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct on facilitation to murder and first-degree robbery. View "Baker v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles does not always offend the federal or Kentucky Constitutions, so long as it comports with a discretionary scheme and the defendant has a meaningful opportunity for the jury to consider mitigating evidence. Appellant was under the age of eighteen when he participated in the murder of two people and the deadly assault of a twelve-year-old girl. The circuit court sentenced Appellant to LWOP. In this appeal from the denial of relief on Appellant’s third Ky. R. Criminal. P. 11.42 motion and his second Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion, the Supreme Court held (1) Appellant’s sentencing was constitutionally permissible; but (2) under this Court’s more recent rulings regarding penalties allowable under the juvenile code, Appellant’s sentence was statutorily prohibited. Consequently, the Court remanded this case for the trial court to impose the lawful sentence of LWOP for twenty-five years. View "Phon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Appellant to thirty years’ imprisonment for murder and for being a first-degree persistent felony offender. The Court held that the trial court (1) did not err by permitting the Commonwealth to elicit testimony from the coroner about the victim’s estimated time of death; (2) did not err by denying Appellant’s motion to continue the trial; (3) did not err by disqualifying one of Appellant’s attorneys; (4) erred by admitting evidence about the victim’s state of mind prior to his murder, but the error was harmless; and (5) did not err by instructing the jury as to self-defense and extreme emotional disturbance. View "Turner v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law