December, 2017

Ohio: Defendant’s Murder Conviction and Death Sentence Reversed Where Trial Court Admitted Irrelevant and Prejudicial “Other Weapons” Evidence

 A divided Ohio Supreme Court reversed defendant’s murder conviction and death sentence and remanded for a new trial where the prosecution offered defendant’s knife collection as evidence that he acted in conformity with a character trait for violence. The trial court committed plain error in admitting evidence that defendant owned other knives unrelated to the murder. This evidence painted defendant as someone with bad character and allowed the jury to convict him on the basis that he acted in conformity with it. State v. Thomas, 2017 BL 355197, Ohio, No. 2012-2026, 10-04-17: full text at

Nevada: Requiring Mother to Admit Child Abuse as Part of Termination of Parental Rights Case Plan Violated Fifth Amendment

 A Nevada trial court violated a mother’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by terminating her parental rights based on her refusal to admit, as part of court-ordered case plan, that she intentionally, as opposed to accidentally, caused injury to her child, which would require admission of criminal act. The Fifth Amendment not only protects individuals in criminal proceedings, but also in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where answers might incriminate him or her in future criminal proceedings. Keaundra D. v. Clark Cty. Dep’t of Family Servs., 2017 BL 358773, Nev., No. 69047, 10-05-17: full text at

New York: Due Process Precludes a Judge from Deciding Appeal of Case Over Which Judge Presided at Bench Trial

After defendant was convicted of impaired driving, his trial court judge was elected to the county court and assigned to review the appeal of his conviction. The New York Court of Appeals held that due process principles precluded a judge from acting as appellate decision-maker in a case over which the judge previously presided at bench trial. A judge may rule on their own decisions in certain circumstances, such as whether a search warrant is valid, but there must be further appellate review from another judge that remains available. People v. Novak, 2017 BL 380265, N.Y., No. 94, 10-24-17: full text at

Maryland: New Trial Required Where Prosecution Failed to Provide Defendant with Witness Statement About Co-defendant That Essentially Identified Defendant as Shooter

The prosecution violated Maryland’s discovery rule when it failed to disclose to defendant that an eyewitness had given a statement indicating that the co-defendant was not the shooter. Because defendant and co-defendant were the only individuals at the scene when the victim was shot, the witness’s statement was the equivalent of a pre-trial identification of defendant, and the prosecution was required to disclose this information in spite of the fact that the discovery rule only referred to witness identification of a defendant and did not say anything about a witness statement about a co-defendant. Green v. State, 2017 BL 376997, Md., 2017 No. 4 September Term, 10-20-17: full text at

Fifth Circuit: Policy That Allowed Detention Until Court Returned for its Next Term Violated Due Process Clause of Fourteenth Amendment

Pre-trial detainee brought a § 1983 action against the county and the sheriff alleging that her 96-day detention prior to arraignment violated her constitutional rights. The Fifth Circuit held that the county sheriff's policy of holding detainees on capias warrants without an arraignment or other court proceeding until the circuit court that issued the capias returned for its next term violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jauch v. Choctaw County, 2017 BL 381459, 5th Cir., No. 16-60690, 10-24-17: full text at

Tenth Circuit: Remand Required for Fuller Analysis of Defendant’s Speedy Trial Claim in Multi-Defendant Drug Conspiracy Case

In a drug conspiracy case involving 22 defendants, the Tenth Circuit remanded for a fuller analysis of defendant’s speedy trial claim finding that more information was needed to rule on the claim because the district court did not consider defendant’s individual interest in a speedy trial and also failed to define how long his trial can be delayed due to the fact that it is a multi-defendant trial. Robinson v. United States, 2017 BL 397439, 10th Cir., No. 17-1330, 11-06-17: full text at