Monday, August 27, 2018

State v. Stricklin

            A Missouri mother awoke one morning in January of 2013 to discover her two-year old daughter crying and bleeding from her genitals.[1]  She took her to a hospital where she underwent surgery and spent five days recuperating.[2]  Suspicion fell on the mother’s boyfriend, Thomas A. Stricklin (“Stricklin”), who was staying in the house at the time of the incident.[3]  In a December 2016 trial, Stricklin was convicted of first-degree statutory sodomy, partially based on evidence collected in a police interrogation wherein Stricklin was not given Miranda warnings.[4]  The trial court admitted the evidence on a finding that the interrogation was not custodial.[5]  In a divided decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District reversed and remanded the case, holding that, at a certain point, the interrogation became custodial and therefore portions of the interview should have been suppressed on Miranda grounds.[6]

Friday, August 24, 2018

Miller v. State

In Miller v. State, the Supreme Court of Missouri reviewed a grant of postconviction relief to a defendant who challenged his conviction based on the revocation of his probation.[1]  The question before the court was whether the trial court made “every reasonable effort” to hold the hearing before the end of his probation term.[2]  The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the trial court did make “every reasonable effort” to hold the hearing prior to the expiration of the probation term, despite allowing for continuances, because the continuances were agreed to by both parties.[3]

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Spence v. BNSF Ry. Co.

            Sherry Spence sued BNSF Railway (“BNSF”) for wrongful death in 2013 after her husband, Scott Spence, was struck and killed in his pickup truck by a BNSF train at a railway crossing.[1]  The case went to trial in 2015, and the jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict for Sherry Spence.[2]  After the verdict, BNSF filed a motion for a new trial based chiefly on the intentional nondisclosure of a jury member.[3]  The circuit court overruled the motion, and BNSF appealed.[4]  The Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the circuit court’s ruling, holding that BNSF had waived its right to seek relief based on juror nondisclosure.[5]

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Kohner Properties, Inc. v. Johnson

In a divided opinion, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a 3-2 per curiam opinion,[1] holding that when a tenant asserts a breach of the implied warranty of habitability as a defense in an action by a landlord to recover rent, and the tenant retains possession of the property, then a trial court may institute an in custodia legis procedure, which requires a tenant to place unpaid rent into an escrow account to be distributed at the conclusion of the litigation.[2]   

Thursday, July 5, 2018

State v. Ajak

            Daniel Ajak was charged with three counts of domestic assault and one count of resisting arrest under section 575.150 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.[1]  A jury acquitted him of two of the three domestic assault charges, and the prosecutor dismissed the remaining domestic assault charge when the jury could not reach a verdict.[2]  The jury did, however, convict Mr. Ajak of resisting arrest.[3]  On appeal, the Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc, Judge Laura Denvir Stith writing for the majority, reversed Mr. Ajak’s conviction, holding that any resistance by Mr. Ajak occurred after his arrest had been effected, and therefore did not constitute resisting arrest under section 575.150.[4]

Thursday, June 28, 2018

United States v. Naylor

            On November 25, 2015, Charles Naylor II pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.[1]  The district court found that Naylor’s four prior convictions for Missouri second-degree burglary qualified as violent felonies, so it subjected him to enhanced sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and imposed a sentence of 180-months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.[2]  The enhanced sentence was affirmed by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in March 2017.[3]  On subsequent appeal, the Eighth Circuit, en banc, vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing, holding that second-degree burglary, as defined in Missouri’s statute, does not constitute a violent felony under the ACCA, overturning the precedent of United States v. Sykes.[4] 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

G.W.G. ex rel J.D.G. v. A.D.N.

            The Missouri Court of Appeals’, Eastern District, decision in G.W.G. ex rel J.D.G. v. A.D.N. assessed, among other issues, a claim that the trial court was impartial and failed to recuse itself despite being aware of certain evidence that improperly swayed the decision in a custody case.  The decision illustrates the high threshold required to make an effective showing of impartiality and the emphasis of viewing a trial record as a whole rather than at specific pieces that suggest impropriety.