Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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House Bill No. 67 passed the Idaho State House on February 2, 2017, and it was transmitted to the Senate. The bill was amended twice in the Senate, and it passed the Senate, as amended, on March 22, 2017, and was returned to the House. As amended by the Senate, the bill passed the House on March 27, 2017. The bill exempted from the state sales tax the sale of food, as defined in the bill, sold for human consumption. The Governor vetoed the bill and delivered it to the Secretary of State on April 11, 2017. Because of the veto, the Secretary of State thereafter refused to certify House Bill No. 67 as law. This case was brought in the Idaho Supreme Court’s original action seeking a writ of mandamus compelling the Secretary of State to certify 2017 House Bill No. 67 as law because the Governor did not veto the bill and return it to the Secretary of State within ten days (excluding Sundays) after the legislature adjourned. The Supreme Court overruled Cenarrusa v. Andrus, 582 P.2d 1082 (1978), but held that all parties were misconstruing Article IV, section 10, of the Idaho Constitution, and denied the writ of mandate. View "Nate v. Denney" on Justia Law

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In 2013, while under the influence of a controlled substance, suffering from schizophrenia, and experiencing paranoia and a delusion that he and his family were in danger, defendant Shawn Fisher killed one person and attempted to kill another. He apparently selected his victims at random. Defendant was ultimately charged with murder in the first degree and several other crimes, but the district court found him unable to assist in his own defense due to his mental illness. Defendant filed a motion seeking to have the statutory abolition of the insanity defense declared to be unconstitutional; the district court denied the motion. The prosecutor, defense counsel, and defendant entered into a binding plea agreement, which provided that defendant would plead guilty to murder in the second degree, the remaining charges would be dismissed, and defendant would reserve the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his motion to declare unconstitutional the statutory abolition of the insanity defense. There was no agreement as to the sentence. The State later filed an amended information reducing the charge of murder in the first degree to murder in the second degree. On the same day, defendant pled guilty to murder in the second degree. The district court held a sentencing hearing sentenced defendant to a determinate life sentence with no possibility for parole. On appeal, Defendant contended that the abolition of the insanity defense violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Eighth Amendment. Finding no such constitutional violation nor an abuse of the district court’s discretion in sentencing defendant, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Darol Anderson appealed his convictions for felony domestic battery and misdemeanor domestic battery. Anderson argued the district court erred when it admitted the preliminary hearing testimony of his alleged victim, Erica Messerly, after finding that she was unavailable to testify at his trial due to mental illness. Anderson also argued that the district court abused its discretion when it allowed Officer Spencer Mortensen to testify that the injuries that he had observed on Messerly’s person were consistent with her allegations against Anderson; he argued this testimony constituted impermissible vouching for Messerly’s truthfulness. Unavailability due to mental illness was an issue of first impression for the Idaho Supreme Court. The Court determined two experts’ testimony were not sufficient evidence to establish that Messerly’s mental illness made her unavailable to testify, so the district court erred when it granted the motion in limine to allow her prehearing testimony to be read at trial. The district court did not abuse its discretion, however, by admitting Officer Mortensen’s testimony. Therefore, the district court’s judgment was vacated in part and affirmed in part. View "Idaho v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The district court igranted a motion to suppress statements made by defendant-respondent Tyrell McNeely to Detective Zane Jensen after finding that the Miranda warnings given to McNeely did not adequately advise him of his rights. On appeal, the State argued the district court erred when it followed case law from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requiring police to advise suspects of their right to have an attorney present during interrogation. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. McNeely" on Justia Law

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Mark Henry Lankford (Lankford) appealed after he was convicted by jury on two counts of felony murder. Lankford and his brother, Bryan Lankford (Bryan), were both convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 murders of Robert and Cheryl Bravence, who were brutally murdered while camping in the Sheep Creek area of Idaho County. Lankford argued that the district court erred in multiple ways and that he is entitled to a new trial. The State argued Lankford failed to prove that reversible error was committed by the district court and that Lankford’s convictions should be affirmed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found that a witness' false testimony about his motive for testifying could have influenced the judgment of the jury. Furthermore, the Court found that the prosecutor's failure to disclose the full details of the agreement for the witness to testify undermined "[its] confidence in the outcome of the trial such that we cannot be sure the defendant 'received a fair trial, understood as a trial resulting in a verdict worthy of confidence.'" Therefore, the Court held Lankford's right to a fair trial was violated and he was entitled to a new one. View "Idaho v. Lankford" on Justia Law

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Mark Lankford and his brother Bryan were both convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 murders of Robert and Cheryl Bravence, who were brutally murdered while camping in the Sheep Creek area of Idaho County. Lankford (Lankford) appealed his judgment of conviction, arguing the district court erred in multiple ways and that he was entitled to a new trial. The State argued that Lankford failed to prove that reversible error was committed by the district court and that Lankford’s convictions should have been affirmed. After careful consideration of the evidence presented at trial, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded Lankford was entitled to a new trial based on a finding of prosecutorial misconduct: the prosecutor's failure to disclose the full details of an agreement with a key corroborating witness' testimony “'undermines our confidence in the outcome of the trial,' such that we cannot be sure the defendant 'received a fair trial, understood as a trial resulting in a verdict worthy of confidence.'” View "Idaho v. Lankford" on Justia Law

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Shawn Wass appealed the judgment entered upon his conditional guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine). He argued the district court erred when it denied his motion to suppress his admission to the arresting officer that he was in possession of syringes. Wass argued the arresting officer did not inform him of his Miranda rights prior to being questioned. The trial court found the officer did not tactically induce a confession, coerce a confession, or use improper tactics to obtain the confession prior to Miranda warnings. The court found a second set of Miranda warnings did cure the failure to administer it the first time: “[i]t’s not a coercion where the actual circumstances are calculated to undermine the suspect’s ability to exercise free will. So I find that the second Miranda warnings does [sic] cure it. Once that happens, then the officer has reasonable articulable suspicion to search the automobile under the automobile search warrantless exception and he does search it and finds the items found in the case. So I’m denying the motion to suppress.” The United States Supreme Court first addressed the issue of whether admissions made in response to police questioning before Miranda warnings have the effect of rendering the same admissions made again after Miranda warnings inadmissible. Wass did not contend that either his pre- or post-Miranda statements were coerced. Therefore the Idaho Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decisions that the post-Miranda statements were admissible. View "Idaho v. Wass" on Justia Law

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In 2014, petitioner-appellant Jeremy Wheeler was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine. Due to prior convictions of a similar nature, he was also charged with being a persistent violator. Wheeler filed a motion to suppress evidence that was denied by the district court. Consistent with Idaho Criminal Rule 11(e), Wheeler completed a written plea advisory form in 2015. There, he indicated that he was entering a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal the issue of his “motion to surpress [sic].” He appeared before the district court the next day and entered his guilty plea to the charge of possessing methamphetamine in exchange for dismissal of another criminal matter and the persistent violator allegation. Wheeler was sentenced to serve seven years, with three years fixed, and the district court retained jurisdiction for one year. On August 13, 2015, the district court relinquished jurisdiction at Wheeler’s request. Wheeler’s trial counsel filed a notice of appeal on September 14, 2015, purporting to challenge both the denial of Wheeler’s motion to suppress and his sentence. The State Appellate Public Defender (“SAPD”) was appointed to represent Wheeler on appeal. Wheeler’s SAPD attorney informed him that his appeal from the denial of the motion to suppress was untimely and recommended that Wheeler file a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to timely appeal from the denial of his motion to suppress. Wheeler filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The State moved for summary dismissal of the petition. The district court granted the motion, finding that Wheeler’s claim that trial counsel had failed to timely appeal the denial of the motion to suppress was groundless. Wheeler timely appealed. The State conceded that the district court erroneously dismissed Wheeler’s petition for post-conviction relief based upon his then-pending direct appeal, and because the Idaho Supreme Court found there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the alternative ground for affirmance posited by the State, the Court vacated the district court’s order dismissing Wheeler’s petition for post-conviction relief and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wheeler v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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In 1981, a jury found Randy McKinney guilty of first degree murder (both by premeditated killing and by felony murder), conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery for the April 1981 shooting death of Robert Bishop, Jr. In 1982, the district court sentenced McKinney to death for first degree murder, an indeterminate thirty years for conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, and fixed life for robbery. In 1997, McKinney filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal district court, and in 2009, the court ruled that he was not entitled to any relief related to the guilt phase of his state case but that he was entitled to resentencing because of the ineffective assistance of his attorney at the capital sentencing hearing. Rather than appealing the court’s decision, the State and McKinney entered into a binding sentencing agreement titled “Rule 11 Sentencing Agreement” in which they agreed that McKinney would “be sentenced to a term of fixed life without the possibility of parole for the crime of first-degree murder, concurrent with his sentences for conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.” McKinney was sentenced in accordance with the plea agreement. In 2010, McKinney filed a motion pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 35 to correct an illegal sentence, contending that being sentenced for both robbery and first-degree murder was barred by the state and federal double jeopardy clauses and a multiple-punishment statute that was in effect when he committed the crimes. This motion was denied. Then in 2013, McKinney moved for post-conviction relief; the State moved to dismiss this petition. The district court found no genuine issue of material fact alleged, and dismissed the petition. McKinney appealed that dismissal, but finding no error in that judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "McKinney v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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In September 2012, the State charged Flores with one felony count of eluding a peace officer. Flores pled guilty to the charge. A judgment of conviction was entered, and Flores was sentenced to five years: a three-year determinate period of confinement followed by a two-year indeterminate period of confinement. The execution of the sentence was suspended and Flores was placed on probation for four years. The probation was revoked and the original sentence reinstated. However, execution of the sentence was again suspended and Flores was placed on probation again for two years. This probation was revoked and execution was suspended, during which time the district court retained jurisdiction over Flores. Roughly four months after the district court retained jurisdiction, the North Idaho Correctional Institution (NICI) filed an addendum to the presentence investigation report (NICI’s report), informing the district court that NICI had classified Flores as a security risk and removed him from the NICI facility. NICI’s report detailed Flores’s misconduct and gang-oriented behavior and recommended that the district court relinquish jurisdiction. The district court followed NICI’s recommendation and relinquished jurisdiction. Flores moved the district court to reinstate jurisdiction so that he could complete his retained jurisdiction program. The district court denied Flores’s motion. Flores appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Flores" on Justia Law