Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s post-conviction motion requesting that the trial court declare him to be intellectually disabled, which would preclude the imposition of the death penalty, holding that Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.130(2), a statute with an outdated test for ascertaining intellectual disability, is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a teenage girl. Eventually, Defendant filed a Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 and 60.03 motion alleging that he is intellectually disabled. The trial court denied the motion without conducting a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court to conduct a hearing consistent with this opinion, holding that section 532.130(2) does not go far enough in recognizing that, in addition to ascertaining intellectual disability using a bright-line test to determine death-penalty-disqualifying intellectual disability, prevailing medical standards should always take precedence in a court’s determination. View "Woodall 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 circuit court ordering that the results of blood alcohol tests obtained by the police be suppressed, holding that no statutory violation occurred in this case. After Defendant was arrested, the arresting officer read the pertinent portion of the statutory implied consent warning to Defendant and asked him to submit to an intoxilyzer test. Defendant agreed to do so, and the result of the test was a .266 blood alcohol level. The district court denied Defendant’s motions to suppress his .266 intoxilyzer result and to dismiss his third offense DUI charge. The circuit court reversed, determining that Defendant had been denied his statutory right to obtain an independent blood test and that his due process right had been violated since the results of the independent test may have provided exculpatory evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Defendant failed to argue that any additional assistance by the officer could have resulted in Defendant obtaining a blood test, no statutory violation occurred; and (2) Defendant received due process. View "Commonwealth v. Riker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating Defendant’s sentence as a persistent felony offender (PFO) in the first degree to ten years’ imprisonment in connection with his conviction of third-degree assault on the grounds that Defendant’s second trial violated his rights against double jeopardy, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 13 of the Kentucky Constitution. After a mistrial, the Commonwealth indicted Defendant as a PFO, first-degree. After a second trial, Defendant was convicted of one count of third-degree assault. The Court of Appeals vacated the conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s retrial was barred by both the United States and Kentucky Constitutions because jeopardy had clearly and unrefutably attached in Defendant’s case and there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial. View "Commonwealth v. Padgett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree assault, first-degree sexual abuse, and first-degree unlawful imprisonment and sentence of sixty years as a persistent felony offender, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated; (2) the trial court did not err in failing to appoint Defendant substitute counsel; (3) the trial court did not commit reversible error in advising Defendant of the right to or appoint stand-by or hybrid counsel; (3) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (4) any error in the trial court’s decision to exclude evidence under the Rape Shield Law was harmless; and (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in advising Defendant of his right to recall a witness. View "Henderson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s first-degree robbery conviction and sentence, vacated his persistent felony offender (PFO) conviction and sentence, which was predicated upon the underlying first-degree robbery conviction, and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred when it failed to direct a verdict on the first-degree robbery charge. After a jury convicted Defendant of first-degree robbery Defendant pleaded guilty to the PFO charge. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the trial court did not err by failing to dismiss the indictment for an alleged violation of Defendant’s right to a speedy trial; (2) the trial court erred when it denied Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the first-degree robbery charge; and (3) the trial court should have conducted further review of Defendant’s request to make opening and closing statements himself. View "Lang v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this interlocutory appeal from the circuit court’s review of an agency ruling was whether Kentucky courts can undertake a statutorily created judicial review of an administrative agency’s final order when the appellant does not have a concrete injury. The Supreme Court adopted the United States Supreme Court’s test for standing as set forth in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-561 (1992), and held (1) the existence of a plaintiff’s standing is a constitutional requirement to prosecute any action in the Commonwealth courts; (2) Kentucky courts have the responsibility to ascertain, upon the court’s motion if the issue was not raised by a party opponent, whether a plaintiff has constitutional standing to pursue the case in court; and (3) in the instant case, the putative petitioner did not have the requisite constitutional standing to pursue her case in Kentucky courts. View "Commonwealth v. Sexton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions of two counts of murder and sentence of life without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by proceeding with voir dire without Defendant present. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court improperly conducted voir dire when Defendant was unable to be present and that the court erred when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085(1). The Supreme court reversed, holding (1) Defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to be present at jury selection pertaining to thirty-one jurors that were questioned in his absence, and the error was not harmless; and (2) the trial court did not commit reversible error when it failed to grant immunity pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 503.085. View "Truss v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42 motion without a hearing, holding that counsel’s failure to advise a client of the sex offender registration requirement constitutes deficient performance. Defendant pled guilty to criminal attempt to commit kidnapping of a minor victim and other offenses. After he was released from prison, Defendant learned that, as a consequence of his guilty plea, he was required to register under Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510 as a person who had committed sex crimes or crimes against minors. Defendant filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to Rule 11.42, claiming that counsel had failed to discuss the sex offender registration requirement with him. The circuit court denied the motion without a hearing, ruling that counsel’s failure to advise his client about registration did not warrant relief under Rule 11.42. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a defendant has a right to effective assistance of counsel concerning the requirement to register as a sex offender. View "Commonwealth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed and remanded Defendant’s conviction for two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and affirmed his conviction for two counts of first-degree sodomy, holding that the jury instructions on the sexual abuse counts violated the unanimity requirement. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court erred in allowing duplicitous instructions on sexual abuse in violation of the unanimity requirement for jury verdicts; (2) the jury instructions for sexual abuse and for sodomy did not subject Defendant to double jeopardy; (3) the trial court did not err in the method of impeachment of the victim’s testimony or in admitting a recorded interview; (4) the trial court erred by admitting a recorded phone call as an adoptive admission, but the error was harmless; and (5) any error in running Defendant’s sentences consecutively instead of concurrently will be cured on remand. View "King v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that Defendant was entitled to a new persistent felony offender (PFO) and sentencing trial because because the proceedings were fundamentally unfair. A jury found Defendant guilty of robbery and two counts of kidnapping and found Defendant to be a PFO. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the two kidnapping charges, but before Defendant was retried on the kidnapping charges, he filed a RCr 11.42 motion alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel stemming from a juror’s presence on the jury who was biased toward Defendant. The circuit court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court held (1) the guilt phase of trial was not fundamentally unfair where no one knew of the juror’s bias toward Defendant during voir dire or the guilt phase of the trial; but (2) once the juror realized that he was Defendant’s former victim prejudice could be presumed, and Defendant was entitled to a new PFO and sentencing trial. View "Commonwealth v. Douglas" on Justia Law