Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction after a jury found Defendant guilty of first degree sexual assault and murder, holding that Defendant was entitled to a new trial because the trial court violated the Confrontation Clause. In this cold case, Defendant was charged with the crimes for which he was convicted twenty-five years after the victim was murdered. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial justice erred by allowing statements of deceased declarants to be admitted into evidence, in violation of the Confrontation Clause. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated Defendant’s convictions, holding (1) the Confrontation Clause was violated when the State implicitly conveyed to the jury the content of statements made by deceased witnesses, both through a detective’s testimony and the closing argument of the prosecutor; and (2) these violations were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case to the superior court for a new trial. View "State v. Roscoe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court that granted Defendant’s application for postconviction relief and reinstated Defendant’s convictions, holding that the hearing justice erred in holding that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in certain respects. The Supreme Court reinstated Defendant’s conviction with respect to aiding-and-abetting counts for felony murder, robbery, using a firearm in the commission of a crime o violence, discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, and committing a crime of violence while armed and having available a firearm. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) trial counsels’ performance was not deficient in failing to propose aiding-and-abetting jury instructions in line with Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65 (2014), because that case was inapplicable here; and (2) the hearing justice erred when she held that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to an aiding-and-abetting theory. View "Whitaker v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s claim that Defendant terminated her employment in violation of the Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA), holding that Plaintiff complied with the statutory requirements for commencing a FEPA violation action in superior court. Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that, as to the FEPA claim, Plaintiff had not properly and timely requested a right-to-sue letter from the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights as required by R.I. Gen. Laws 28-5-24.1. The Commission intervened. The hearing justice granted Defendant’s and the Commission’s motions to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff had not timely requested a right-to-sue letter. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment below, holding that, based on the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff complied with the requirements of section 28-5-24.1 for bringing this FEPA action. View "Mokwenyei v. Rhode Island Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court finding Defendant guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress or in failing to exclude certain evidence. Specifically, the Court held (1) law enforcement’s failure to comply with Miranda does not require the suppression of the physical evidence acquired as a result of a suspect’s unwarned, but voluntary, statements; (2) Defendant’s statements leading detectives to a firearm and ammunition were voluntary, and therefore, the gun and ammunition were admissible; and (3) the trial justice did not err in concluding that the police’s seizure through the impounding of Defendant’s vehicle and the subsequent search of the vehicle were constitutional, and therefore, the evidence obtained therein admissible. View "State v. Beauregard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Appellant’s application for postconviction relief, holding that Appellant was not entitled to postconviction relief. Appellant was found guilty of murder in the first degree and other offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment. Appellant later filed the instant application for postconviction relief alleging that he was denied effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. After a hearing, the hearing justice denied the application for postconviction relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no ineffective assistance of either Appellant’s trial or appellate counsel, and therefore, the hearing justice properly denied Appellant’s application for postconviction relief. View "Jimenez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for carrying a firearm without license and other firearm-related offenses. After Defendant filed his appeal, he filed in the Supreme Court a motion to hold the appeal in abeyance and remanded the matter to the superior court to allow him to seek a new trial based on alleged violations of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Court denied Defendant’s motion to hold the appeal in abeyance but granted the remand motion. A hearing on the alleged Brady violation was held before the same justice of the superior court who presided over Defendant’s trial. The trial justice denied both the Brady-related motion for a new trial and Defendant’s motion to recuse the trial justice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not commit prejudicial error by (1) denying Defendant’s motion to suppress two witnesses’ show-up identifications; (2) admitting the recording of an anonymous 911 call at trial; (3) determining that the state did not commit a Brady violation; and (4) denying Defendant’s motion to recuse the trial justice. View "State v. Washington" on Justia Law

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In this appeal by the Rhode Island Troopers Association from a judgment granting declaratory and equitable relief in favor of the State, the Supreme Court affirmed the first six declarations and vacated the remaining two declarations in the superior court’s judgment. Here, the superior court (1) declared that the Governmental Tort Liability Act, R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 31 of title 9, vests the Attorney General with the nondelegable, nontransferable legal duty to determine whether the State should provide a defense and indemnification in a civil action brought against a state employee; and (2) permanently enjoined arbitration of issues related to the Attorney General’s decision to decline to provide a defense and indemnification for a state trooper in a federal civil rights action brought against him in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly enjoined the arbitration proceedings because the issues raised were not arbitrable within the collective bargaining process; (2) the superior court properly declared that the Attorney General possesses the nondelegable, nontransferable, sole legal duty to determine whether a state employee was acting within the scope of employment and is therefore entitled to a defense and indemnification; and (3) the remaining two declarations were superfluous to the issues in this case. View "State v. Rhode Island Troopers Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of two counts of first-degree sexual assault. On appeal, Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial justice should have granted his motion for a mistrial due to what he termed the prosecutor’s comment on his failure to testify. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice correctly found that the prosecutor’s statement, taken in context, did not improperly comment on Defendant’s failure to testify and thus did not violate Defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights; (2) the trial justice did not commit reversible error in admitting Defendant’s “mug shot” into evidence; and (3) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for new trial. View "State v. Marizan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner’s application for postconviction relief, in which he alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when his parole was revoked and he was denied the possibility of parole in the future. After Petitioner was granted parole, he was arrested in Pennsylvania and convicted of one count of aggravated assault. In 1994, while Petitioner was serving his sentence in Pennsylvania, the Rhode Island Parole Board voted to revoke Petitioner’s parole and indicated that he would no longer be eligible for parole. Upon completion of his prison term in Pennsylvania, Petitioner, in 2014, appeared again before the Parole Board. The Parole Board affirmed the revocation of Petitioner’s parole and stated that Petitioner would forever remain ineligible for parole consideration. The Supreme Court held that it was error for the Parole Board to have denied Petitioner counsel at the 1994 hearing and the 2014 hearing and remanded the case with instructions that the superior court remand this case to the Parole Board to conduct a new parole revocation hearing. View "Jefferson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court granting a motion brought by Defendant, the State Public Defender’s Office, for judgment on the pleadings regarding Plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims. Plaintiff in this case filed two complaints. In Nugent I, Plaintiff appealed an arbitration decision concluding that the Public Defender’s Office acted wth just cause when it terminated Plaintiff’s employment. Judgment entered in favor of Defendant on the basis that Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the arbitration decision in court. In Nugent II, Plaintiff alleged unlawful employment discrimination. Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that res judicata barred Plaintiff’s discrimination claims. The hearing justice granted the motion, and final judgment entered in favor of Defendant on all claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in Nugent II, holding that Nugent I was not a final judgment for purposes of res judicata because the consideration of Nugent’s standing did not reach the merits of Nugent I, and therefore, Plaintiff was not barred from seeking redress for her discrimination claims raised in Nugent II. View "Nugent v. State" on Justia Law