Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
In this criminal case, reversible error occurred when the trial court allowed the Commonwealth to introduce sexually explicit social media exchanges Appellant had with other women after the victim’s death, and the erroneous admission of this evidence was not harmless error Appellant was convicted and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment for second-degree manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, and fraudulent use of a credit card over $500. Appellant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred by allowing into evidence sexually explicit communications Appellant made after the victim’s death. The Supreme Court reversed Appellant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Rucker v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellant was convicted of kidnapping, first-degree manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, and theft by unlawful taking. Upon Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, the trial court set aside Appellant’s kidnapping sentence and granted a new penalty phase trial on that charge. After a retrial, the trial court sentenced Appellant to imprisonment for life, to be served concurrently with the twenty-year sentence for manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the retrial of the kidnapping penalty phase was not fatally flawed because (1) gruesome details of the condition of the victim’s body were irrelevant and cumulative but did not sway the jury’s sentencing decision; (2) victim impact testimony relating to several victims was proper, and certain improper victim impact testimony was not palpable error; (3) the trial court did not improperly limit Appellant’s presentation of mitigation evidence; and (4) the trial court did not err by permitting the Commonwealth to use guilt-phase physical evidence during its closing argument. View "Gaither v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellant appealed his conviction for the murder of his brother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not abuse its discretion in failing to strike Juror 500 for cause because there was nothing in the record to establish a reasonable ground to doubt the juror’s qualifications; (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant’s motion to strike Juror 566 for cause because there was no reasonable ground to believe that the Juror could not render a fair and impartial verdict on the evidence; (3) properly determined that the evidence did not support an instruction on reckless homicide; and (4) did not err by permitting the Commonwealth to introduce statements made by the victim in the form of text messages sent in the days and weeks immediately preceding the shooting. View "Sturgeon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellant appealed his convictions stemming from three separate robberies committed in downtown Louisville in January 2014. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in declining to suppress Appellant’s recorded statements to a detective; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in prohibiting Appellant from introducing evidence about his refusal to sign a Miranda-waiver form without having an attorney present; (3) the admission into evidence of Appellant’s hooded sweatshirt was improper, but any error was harmless and did not require reversal; and (4) the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to sever the charged offenses for separate trials did not result in any actual undue prejudice to Appellant. View "Smith v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellant entered an Alford plea to one count of murder. Before sentencing, Appellant submitted a motion to withdraw his plea, arguing that his counsel deceived him when she informed him that he could withdraw his plea at any time before sentencing and that his plea was involuntarily entered. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Appellant argued that the trial court erred by resolving the plea issue without taking evidence and without appointing conflict-free counsel. The Supreme court vacated the judgment and the order denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea, holding (1) an actual conflict existed in this case, and an evidentiary hearing should have been held at which Appellant’s attorney’s testimony would have been necessary; and (2) the error created a manifest injustice. Remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Zapata v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted for having assaulted by neglect a severely disabled young man who lived with her. The Court of Appeals effectively dismissed the indictment against Defendant for assault, concluding (1) contrary to Ky. Rev. Stat. 501.030(1), the Commonwealth failed to show that Defendant had a duty to care for the young man; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that the Commonwealth did not properly plead its case against Defendant. Defendant, however, was not entitled to a directed verdict. Further, reinstatement of the assault conviction was not appropriate. Instead, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of assault and remanded for additional proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Defendant was arrested for operating a motor vehicle on a DUI-suspended license. Defendant was charged with a Class D felony under the penalty-enhancement provision in Ky. Rev. Stat. 189A.090(2)(c) because this was his third such offense in less than three years. Defendant challenged the enhancement by collaterally attacking his earlier convictions, arguing that his guilty pleas in those cases were invalid under Boykin v. Alabama. The circuit court rejected the challenge. Defendant conditionally pleaded guilty. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that there was insufficient evidence showing that Defendant’s prior guilty pleas complied with the Boykin requirements. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated Defendant’s conviction, holding that Defendant’s prior convictions were not subject to collateral attack on Boykin matters in this case. View "Commonwealth v. Fugate" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder. Defendant had recently become a “fully-patched” member of the Iron Horsemen motorcycle club at the time of the murder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not err by permitting increased security during trial; (2) did not err by admitting testimony regarding the culture of the Iron Horsemen; (3) erred in permitting alleged ex parte communication between the Commonwealth and the trial court, but the error was harmless; and (4) did not abuse its discretion by overruling Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. View "Rigdon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment, and third-degree arson. Appellant appealed, arguing, primarily, that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on voluntarily intoxication under Ky. Rev. Stat. 501.080(1). The Supreme Court reversed the second-degree assault conviction and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to entitle Defendant to a voluntary intoxication instruction, and the failure to include the instruction was reversible error as to the second-degree assault conviction; and (2) the remaining convictions’ required mental states cannot be negated by voluntary intoxication, and therefore, those convictions and sentences were not in error. View "King v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Appellant was convicted of incest, first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, and other crimes. Appellant was sentenced to a total of sixty-five years in prison, the maximum sentence allowable in this case. On appeal, Appellant argued, inter alia, that he was entitled to relief because during voir dire the juror who ultimately became foreperson lied on her juror qualification form and also during voir dire proceedings concerning whether a member of her family had ever been prosecuted in a criminal matter. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) the jury foreperson wrongfully failed to disclose the criminal prosecutions of her family, and the concealment of that information denied Appellant the opportunity to challenge the juror for cause or alternatively, use a peremptory strike to remove the juror; and (2) Appellant was deprived of a substantial right not subject to harmless error analysis. View "Gullett v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law