Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's judgment of conviction on one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and remanded the case to the superior court for a new trial, holding that the trial justice erred in denying Defendant's motion to pass the case after the prosecutor's statements during closing argument about Defendant's courtroom demeanor and behavior toward the complainant. Specifically, the Court held (1) the prosecutor's statements regarding Defendant's courtroom demeanor had the potential for unfair prejudice, and a curative instruction could not overcome the prejudice in this case; (2) the trial justice erred in admitting some, but not all, of the evidence pertaining to a police investigation into Defendant for possession of child pornography; and (3) Defendant's claim that the trial justice erred in failing to safeguard Defendant's right to a fair trial based on various claims related to the presence of members of a motorcycle group known as Bikers Against Child Abuse in the courtroom during trial was not properly before the court. View "State v. Bozzo" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal from an order of the superior court concluding that former Central Falls Mayor and former members of the Central Falls City Council (collectively, the elected officials) were not entitled to indemnification from the State for attorneys' fees and costs incurred over the course of this action the Supreme Court held that the superior court correctly concluded that the State was not required to indemnify the elected officials. These cases arose out of conflicts between a receiver, appointed for the City of Central Falls pursuant to the Financial Stability Act, and the elected officials. After the Supreme Court resolved the issue of the constitutionality of the Financial Stability Act the parties continued to litigate about the issue of attorneys' fees and indemnification. The Supreme Court concluded that the elected officials were entitled to indemnification. At issue in this appeal was who was required to indemnify the elected officials for their legal fees and costs. The superior court held that the City was required to indemnify the elected officials. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the elected officials were entitled to indemnification from the City but not from the State. View "Shine v. Moreau" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss one count of first-degree sexual assault on the grounds of double jeopardy and prosecutorial misconduct, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claims. Defendant was found guilty of assault and battery and acquitted as to several offenses, but as to the charge for first-degree sexual assault based upon anal penetration, the jury deadlocked and did not reach a verdict. When it became evident that the State would retry Defendant on the deadlocked count, Defendant filed several pretrial motions. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the sole remaining count, arguing that double jeopardy barred a retrial of acquitted conduct that arose from the same set of facts previously decided by the jury and that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct. Defendant further sought to exclude any reference to acquitted conduct from the first trial. The trial justice denied Defendant's motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's first argument conflated a double jeopardy contention with one that was evidentiary, and whether Defendant's acquitted conduct was admissible under R.I. R. Evid. 404(b) at his retrial was an issue not properly before the court; and (2) Defendant's prosecutorial misconduct argument was not preserved for appeal. View "State v. Forlasto" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner's appeal from a decision of a drug court magistrate upholding a determination by the Sex Offender Board of Review classifying Petitioner as a Level II, moderate-risk sex offender, holding that Petitioner's classification was lawful and proper. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Board violated his rights to due process, to the presumption of innocence, and to be protected from double jeopardy by relying on alleged impermissible hearsay allegations for conduct for which he was eventually acquitted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner failed to demonstrate that his right to procedural due process was violated; (2) the Board considered numerous factors in making its determination; and (3) Petitioner's classification did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, and the Board's actions were not in the context of a criminal trial and did not implicate Petitioner's right to a fair trial. View "DiCarlo v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of assault of a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, holding that the trial justice did not err in determining that Defendant had waived his constitutional right to counsel. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice erred in concluding that he made a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of his constitutional right to counsel. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice did not err in (1) determining that Defendant voluntarily waived his right to counsel prior to trial; and (2) finding that Defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel. View "State v. Souto" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder by use of a firearm he was not licensed to carry, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial justice did not err by denying Defendant's pretrial motion to suppress statements he gave to the police in the first of two interrogations; (2) Defendant failed to show that his trial counsel had an actual conflict of interest throughout her representation of him; (3) Defendant waived his argument that the trial court erred in admitting testimonial and photographic evidence suggesting Defendant's affiliation with known gangs; and (4) Defendant waived direct appellate review of challenged jury instructions. View "State v. Andrade" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that the trial justice did not commit clear error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial justice committed clear error by (1) refusing to suppress his statement to the police because the confession was not knowing, intelligent or voluntary, and (2) admitting Defendant's confession into evidence despite Defendant's invocation of his right to remain silent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not err in concluding that Defendant's statements to the police were knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; and (2) the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress his statements to the police during his interrogation. View "State v. Munir" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order and judgment of the family court finding Respondent delinquent for possession of child pornography, holding that Respondent was not entitled to relief on three of his arguments and that Respondent waived his fourth argument. Specifically, the Court held (1) the family court magistrate did not err in denying Respondent's request for a Franks hearing; (2) the trial justice did not err in determining that the search warrant was supported by probable cause; (3) the trial justice did not err in finding that the police did not need to obtain a new search warrant after the police determined that their original warrant was based on misinformation; and (4) Defendant waived his argument that the trial justice erred by not suppressing Respondent's oral statements to the police. View "In re Austin B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of two counts of first degree robbery and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, holding that the admission of an out-of-court statement made by an alleged coconspirator who did not appear at Defendant's trial, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. While the sole issue on appeal was whether Defendant's Sixth Amendment confrontation rights were violatedl. The Court held (1) this Court assumes, without deciding, that a Confrontation Clause objection was properly articulated; and (2) because the remaining evidence was sufficiently compelling to support the jury's finding of guilty, the admission of the coconspirator's out-of-court declaration was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of four counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault, holding that Defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on any of his arguments on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial justice did not err when he accepted a jury waiver form that Defendant had signed outside the presence of the trial justice; (2) Defendant's colloquy with the trial justice demonstrated that Defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial; and (3) the trial justice adequately explained the differences between a jury trial and a bench trial. View "State v. Morais" on Justia Law