Criminal Law

Editor:
Ellen H. Flottman, Esquire

Presence of uniformed police officers in courtroom during murder trial for death of a police officer did not require evidentiary hearing for ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to object. Johnson v. State, No. 92448 (Mo. banc, July, 16, 2013), Draper, J.

Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death.  He appeals the denial of his Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief. 

Held:  Affirmed
.   Dissenters would grant an evidentiary hearing, as other jurisdictions have held that in fact-specific circumstances, the attendance of numerous uniformed police officers during criminal proceedings may be inherently prejudicial to the defendant. 


Seventeen-year-old first degree murder defendant must be resentenced under Miller v. Alabama. State v. Hart, No. 93153 (Mo. banc, July 30, 2013), Wilson, J.

Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree for an offense committed at the age of seventeen and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. 

Held:  Remanded for resentencing.
  Under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the Eighth Amendment forbids sentencing a juvenile defendant to life without parole when there has been no consideration of the particular circumstances of the crime or the offender’s age and development.  If on remand the sentencer is persuaded that life without parole is appropriate under all the circumstances, then the trial court should impose that sentence.  If not, then § 565.020 is unconstitutional as applied, and the defendant must be found guilty of murder in the second degree and sentenced within the range of punishment for that offense. 


Missouri juvenile certification procedures are not unconstitutional. State v. Nathan, No. 92979 (Mo. banc, July 30, 2013), Wilson, J.

Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree for an offense committed at the age of seventeen and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. 

Held:  Remanded for resentencing
(see companion case, State v. Hart, summarized above).  Juvenile certification procedures under Section 211.071 do not unconstitutionally permit the juvenile court to relinquish its jurisdiction on allegations assumed in be true in violation of due process and Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000).  Rather, the juvenile court considers the nature of the offenses alleged rather than whether the juvenile committed them in deciding to relinquish jurisdiction.  Once in the circuit court, the defendant is given his due process rights, including the right to trial by jury.  


Lincoln County opt-out jury selection procedure did not constitute a substantial failure to comply with jury selection statutes under the specific facts of this case. State ex rel., Sitton v. Norman, No. 93020 (Mo. banc, July 30, 2013), Teitelman, J.

Petitioner requested habeas corpus relief alleging that the trial court permitted otherwise qualified jurors to opt out of jury service by agreeing to perform community service. 

Held: Petitioner remanded to the custody of respondent
.  Lincoln County had a procedure by which jurors could opt out of jury service by agreeing to perform community service.  The Court does not reach the question as to whether habeas is a proper method for relief, because petitioner has not established prejudice.  He failed to show that the opt-out practice, which excused five jurors in his case, constitutes a substantial failure to comply with the jury selection statutes.   


Editor:
Rosalynn Koch, Esquire

Defendant cannot challenge court’s outdated defense-of-others  instruction on appeal after offering an identical instruction at trial.   State v. Oudin, No. 74885 (Mo. App. W.D., July 23, 2013), Mitchell, J.

Both the state and defense offered an out of date defense-of-others instruction.  The trial court submitted the state’s instruction and defendant did not object.

Held: Affirmed.
  Defendant waived review of the incorrect instruction even though her instruction was refused in favor of the state’s version.   State v. Celis-Garcia is distinguishable: while both parties in Celis-Garcia had submitted an incorrect instruction at trial, the defendant’s offered instruction comported with MAI and on appeal the instruction was found to conflict with substantive law.


State’s systemic failure to comply with discovery rules and Brady v. Maryland does not mandate a finding that movant’s guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary.  Wallar v. State, No. 75103, (Mo. App. W.D., July 23, 2013), Mitchell, J.

Movant alleged that his plea was unknowing and involuntary because state had failed to disclose criminal records of its witnesses and internal investigation materials relating to police officers, and that such failure was a systematic violation on the part of the prosecutor’s office such that no guilty plea could be deemed voluntary.

Held: Affirmed
.  Movant failed to show that the material was not merely related to impeachment, and counsel was aware of the deficiencies.  The Jackson County prosecutor’s office form discovery response is deceptive, however, in incorrectly asserting that criminal checks of state’s witnesses have been run, and the forms should be changed.