Articles Posted in Constitutional 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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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs’ second amended complaint with prejudice, holding that the hearing justice did not err in dismissing the complaint. In their second amended complaint, Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the statutory system for appointing magistrates to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that they were due a refund of fines and costs that had previously been assessed by the Traffic Tribunal because Defendants’ conduct was unconstitutional. Plaintiffs further argued that Defendants had been unjustly enriched by levying those fines. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure. The justice granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs’ complaint failed to state a viable claim for relief as to Plaintiffs’ constitutional claim and that the complaint failed to allege the facts necessary to support the unjust enrichment claim. View "McKenna v. Guglietta" 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 affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Defendant’s application for postconviction relief in which Defendant argued that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer was not licensed to practice law in Rhode Island. Defendant pled nolo contendere to two criminal offenses and admitted to violating his probationary sentence. In his postconviction relief application, Defendant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense counsel, who was not licensed to practice law in Rhode Island, was engaging in unlawful conduct. Defendant further argued that his defense counsel’s associate, who was licensed in Rhode Island and who appeared in court with Defendant, was a “straw man” and thus complicit in the scheme to practice law without a license. The superior court denied the application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice properly found that defense counsel’s associate, not defense counsel, represented Defendant with respect to his pleas; and (2) Defendant’s argument that defense counsel and the associate had a conflict of interest in representing Defendant lacked merit. View "Millette v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded this case to the superior court with directions to hear and decide Plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint upon the merits, holding that the trial justice erred in failing to address Plaintiff’s motion to file a second amended complaint. Plaintiff, an inmate, filed an amended civil complaint alleging negligence on the part of State defendants. Before trial, the trial justice sua sponte raised the issue of the civil death statute in light of Plaintiff’s sentences of life imprisonment. Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss the case under R.I. Gen. Laws 13-6-1, arguing that Plaintiff was deemed civilly dead, and therefore, his civil rights were effectively terminated. Plaintiff then filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint seeking to add a claim for violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights under color of law. The trial justice granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the civil death statute and did not address Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court held that the trial justice accurately dismissed the case but should have addressed Plaintiff’s second amended complaint before granting Defendants’ motion to dismiss. View "Gallop v. Adult Correctional Institutions" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and one count of the sale or distribution of photographs of a minor suggesting that the minor engaged in, or is about to engage in, a sexual act. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine the complaining witness regarding her allegations against her biological father. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in precluding the admission of this evidence. View "State v. Danis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the superior court granting Defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made to a Massachusetts Department of Children and Families investigator on grounds that the investigator’s failure to advise Defendant of his right to counsel rendered the statements involuntary. Defendant was indicted by a grand jury on four counts of child molestation. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the hearing justice granting Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s statements were voluntary, and the motion to suppress should have been denied. View "State v. Gouin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner’s application for postconviction relief, in which Petitioner claimed that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Court held (1) Petitioner’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to utilize an expert witness on false confessions; (2) the trial justice did not clearly err in refusing to approve funding for the hiring of an expert witness on false confessions in this postconviction relief action; and (3) trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to file a motion to recuse the justice during the trial, and the trial justice did not err in not recusing himself from hearing the instant application for postconviction relief. View "Barros v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court denying Petitioner’s application for postconviction relief, in which Petitioner claimed that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Court held (1) Petitioner’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to utilize an expert witness on false confessions; (2) the trial justice did not clearly err in refusing to approve funding for the hiring of an expert witness on false confessions in this postconviction relief action; and (3) trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to file a motion to recuse the justice during the trial, and the trial justice did not err in not recusing himself from hearing the instant application for postconviction relief. View "Barros v. State" on Justia Law