Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s petition for postconviction relief, in which Defendant claimed that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in several respects. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court’s conclusions, holding that counsel did not render ineffective assistance by (1) not objecting to the mental-state jury instruction; (2) not objecting to evidence regarding Defendant’s brothers or references to the term “Modern Outlaw”; (3) briefly referring to Defendant’s probationer status; and (4) not objecting to the admission of testimony that allegedly vouched for the testimony of others. View "Golie v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, rendered after a jury trial, for deliberate homicide and several other offenses. The district court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court relieved the State of its burden to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by giving jury instruction number twelve stating that “when circumstantial evidence is susceptible to two interpretations, one that supports guilt and one that supports innocence, the jury determines which is most reasonable.” The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, considering all the instructions, the disputed instruction did not adversely affect Defendant’s substantial rights. View "State v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order vacating Defendant’s initial guilty plea to felony partner or family member assault (PFMA) and the court’s subsequent order accepting Defendant’s guilty plea to aggravated assault. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court had no authority to vacate his guilty plea to PFMA and that he was twice put in jeopardy for the same offense. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant waived his right to appeal the district court’s decision to vacate his guilty plea to PFMA in his later plea agreement for aggravated assault; and (2) the State’s prosecution of Defendant for aggravated assault did not compromise the protections against double jeopardy. View "State v. Stone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of felony theft, by common scheme. Defendant’s conviction arose from his act of obtaining benefits by means of deception after he misrepresented the severity of his injury to medical providers. The Supreme Court held (1) viewing the evidence in light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant obtained the benefits by means of deception or fraud, and therefore, the State presented sufficient evidence to convict Defendant under Mont. Code Ann. 45-6-301(5)(b); and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Defendant’s proposed jury instruction on the termination of workers’ compensation benefits under Mont. Code Ann. 39-71-609. View "State v. Sheehan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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With the exception of an incorrectly imposed user surcharge, the Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for sexual intercourse without consent and burglary. The court held (1) the district court correctly balanced the four factors in a speedy trial analysis and correctly determined that Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated; (2) the court did not err when it allowed officers to read out loud from a transcript of Defendant’s statements to refresh the witnesses’ recollection; (3) Defendant’s argument that the the district court erred in its jury instruction for burglary was not preserved for review; and (4) the district court erred the court erred in imposing more than one user surcharge. View "State v. Bullock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s conviction motion to set aside his 2008 conviction for partner or family member assault (PFMA) and revocation of his suspended sentence. The attorney’s office sought to revoke Defendant’s suspended sentence after Defendant was again arrested for PFMA. Defendant filed a motion to set aside his 2008 conviction, arguing that the pre-2013 PFMA statute was unconstitutional. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, and Defendant admitted to the violations set forth in the petition to revoke. The Supreme Court held that Defendant forfeited his constitutional challenge to the PFMA statute when he voluntarily pleaded guilty in 2008. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of sexual assault against R.W., the eight-year-old daughter of Defendant’s former girlfriend. The jury acquitted Defendant of sexual intercourse without consent against K.W., R.W.’s twin sister. The Supreme Court held (1) even if improper, the prosecutor’s statement during closing argument that, in order for the jury to find Defendant not guilty it would have to conclude that R.W. and K.W. had lied during their testimony, did not prejudice Defendant; (2) the district court did not commit plain error when it did not sue sponte give a specific unanimity instruction to the jury on the sexual assault charge after R.W. testified to two alleged sexual assaults; and (3) the district court’s failure to disclose to the defense information from the medical and counseling records that it reviewed in camera did not warrant a new trial. View "State v. Stutzman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant’s petition was not timely and that Appellant’s claims of newly discovered evidence were unsubstantiated. Appellant entered Alford guilty pleas to five felonies and a misdemeanor for a violent assault and kidnapping of a woman he had been dating. Appellant filed the present petition for postconviction relief approximately five years later, asserting that he was effectively coerced into making his Alford pleas and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition on the merits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court erred in measuring the deadline for Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief but nevertheless ultimately reached the right result in denying the petition. View "Peterson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment entered by the district court convicting Defendant of the deliberate homicide of his infant daughter and sentencing Defendant. The court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence about Defendant’s prior partner or family member assault conviction under Mont. R. Evid. 404(b); and (2) the district court erred by issuing a nonconforming written judgment that omitted credit for 318 days of time Defendant served pending trial. The court remanded the case for entry of an amended judgment. View "State v. Blaz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s judgment convicting Defendant of felony aggravated burglary and misdemeanor criminal mischief, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it refused to instruct the jury on the offense of misdemeanor assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated burglary. The district court refused to give Defendant’s proffered instruction on the grounds that it misstated the law and that the State had agreed to drop a misdemeanor assault charge. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant properly preserved his argument for appeal that the district court erred in failing to give his proposed instruction; and (2) the evidence at trial did support Defendant’s proposal for the lesser-included offense instruction. View "State v. Daniels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law