Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of cocaine discovered after a dog sniff of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger, holding that the stop was extended, and that extension was not justified by reasonable, articulable suspicion.Defendant was charged with first-degree possession of cocaine. He pled not guilty and filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that he was illegally detained and that the police did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to call the dog. The trial court determined that it was a valid stop and that the evidence should not be suppressed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the traffic stop was extended; (2) the Commonwealth failed to establish simultaneous missions that permitted the seizure; and (3) the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of establishing reasonable, articulable suspicion. View "Commonwealth v. Clayborne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in a drug dog sniff search during a traffic stop of the vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger, holding that the trial court erred by denying the motion to suppress.In reversing the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress, the court of appeals concluded that the investigating officer unconstitutionally extended the duration of the traffic stop to accommodate the dog-sniff search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commonwealth failed to establish that the extension of the traffic stop was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion. View "Commonwealth v. Conner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the traffic stop in this case was extended, and the extension was not justified by reasonable, articulable suspicion.Defendant was charged with first-degree possession of cocaine. Defendant pled not guilty and filed a motion to suppress the evidence of cocaine, claiming that he was illegally detained and the the police did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to call for a K-9 unit to come and search the scene. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, concluding that the initial stop was valid. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that no reasonable articulable suspicion existed to permit the K-9 unit search and that the search unconstitutionally extended the traffic stop, in violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. View "Commonwealth v. Clayborne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment convicting Defendant of complicity to murder and tampering with physical evidence, holding the trial court did not err in admitting unreacted out-of-court statements in which Defendant's co-defendant incriminated herself and Defendant to a cellmate who testified at trial.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in ruling that the Confrontation Clause was not implicated because the co-defendant's out-of-court statements to her cellmate were not testimonial and sufficient corroboration otherwise supported the admissibility of the statements; (2) the trial court did not err in admitting a jail phone call of Defendant; and (3) the Commonwealth's Attorney improperly questioned a witness, but the error did not render Defendant's trial fundamentally unfair. View "Fisher v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of first-degree sodomy and sentencing him to life imprisonment, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the jury instructions did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Kentucky or the United States Constitutions; (2) the Commonwealth presented sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of two counts of first-degree sodomy; and (3) Defendant was not deprived of a fair trial by the Commonwealth's attorney vouching during closing argument for the victim's truthfulness. View "Towe v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court dismissing this complaint brought under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 344, holding that the KCRA does not bar an employe from discharging an employee because of the disability of an individual with whom the employee associates.After Employer terminated Employee's employment for lack of work Employee sued, alleging that his firing violated the KCRA. Specifically, Employee claimed that Employer discriminated against him for his association with his wife, who suffered from cystic fibrosis. The trial court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the text of the KCRA does not support a cause of action for discrimination based on an employee's association with a disabled individual. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employee failed to state a claim supported under Kentucky law. View "Barnett v. Central Kentucky Hauling, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of first-degree and second-degree arson and six counts of attempted murder, of which four were charged as hate crimes, holding that Defendant was denied a fair trial when the Commonwealth, aware of Defendant's intoxication during her arrest, opposed the intoxication defense instructions and implied to the jury that Defendant was not intoxicated.On appeal, Defendant argued that six trial errors required reversal, either individually or cumulatively. The Supreme Court held that the prosecutorial misconduct was flagrant enough to render the trial fundamentally unfair, simultaneously leading the jury to conclude facts contrary to the known facts and depriving Defendant of an ability to present her defense. The Court held that this one error was enough to require reversal but also addressed Defendant's remaining allegations of error, concluding that there were multiple errors in this case. View "Brafman v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of twenty years' imprisonment and convictions of not guilty by reason of insanity for first-degree murder, not guilty by reason of insanity for first-degree burglary, guilty but mentally ill of two counts of second-degree assault and guilty but mentally ill of fourth-degree assault, holding that any error was not prejudicial.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the jury’s verdicts were not impermissibly inconsistent; (2) the trial court did not err by failing to grant Defendant's motions for directed verdict; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to provide lesser-included offense instructions to the jury; (4) the trial court's failure to provide the jury with the definition of "dangerous instrument" was harmless error; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motion to strike two jurors for cause; and (6) the trial court erred by not making the requisite statutory findings under Ky. Rev. Stat. 703 before admitting prior bad act evidence, but the error was harmless. View "Exantus v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's convictions for first-degree manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and second-degree persistent felony offender, holding that Defendant was deprived of his right to counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings.On appeal, Defendant argued that he was denied the right to conflict-free counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings - during an in-chambers hearing the trial court conducted on the fitness and ability of Defendant's private attorney. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the court's decision not to inform Defendant of the Commonwealth's allegations against his private attorney and not offer him the opportunity to retain independent counsel to represent his interests was of constitutional magnitude. View "Downs v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's drug-related convictions, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.After he was arrested and indicted, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized during a traffic stop, arguing that the law enforcement officer impermissibly prolonged the stop to facilitate a dog sniff search. The trial court denied the request. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the actions taken to facilitate the arrest of Defendant's passenger did not impermissibly extend his traffic stop, and therefore, the trial court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence resulting from the subsequent use of the narcotics dog. View "Rhoton v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law