October 2019

Indiana: New Trial Required Where
Trial Court Denied OWI Defendant’s
Request for a Hearing Where
Juror Revealed That Her Family Member
Was Killed by a Drunk Driver

A new trial was required where the trial court abused its discretion when it denied defendant’s request to conduct a hearing regarding a juror’s potential bias in a prosecution for OWI. Before the jury was sworn in, a juror provided the court with a note in which she revealed that a family member had been killed by a drunk driver. The note showed a relevant basis for a possible challenge for cause, and the juror’s statement that she could still be a juror was insufficient to wipe out the possibility that she was biased. Easler v. State, ___ N.E.3d ___ (09-20-2019, WL 4565077).

Massachusetts: Evidence That Defendant
Supplied Heroin to College Student Who
Died from Overdose Was
Insufficient to Support
Involuntary Manslaughter Conviction

Evidence that the victim overdosed and died after using heroin transferred to him by defendant was insufficient to demonstrate that defendant engaged in conduct that created a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm of death or overdose would result to the victim, and thus defendant could not be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by wanton or reckless conduct in absence of evidence that defendant knew or should have known that the heroin was unusually potent or laced with fentanyl; that the victim was particularly vulnerable to overdose because of his age, use of other drugs, or prior overdoses; or evidence that defendant knew or should have known that the victim overdosed but defendant failed to seek help. Commonwealth v. Carrillo, ___ N.E.3d ___ (10-03-2019, WL 4865700).

Colorado: New Trial Required Where
Trial Court Failed to Give
No-Adverse-Inference Jury Instruction

The trial court’s failure to provide a no-adverse-inference jury instruction regarding defendant’s choice not to testify at sexual assault trial was not harmless error where the trial was a pure credibility contest and there was no guarantee that the jury did not hold defendant’s decision not to testify against him. Deleon v. Colorado, ___ P.3d ___ (10-07-2019, WL 4925786).

Montana: New Trial Required Where Trial
Court Erred When It Allowed Admission of
Prior Criminal Endangerment Conviction

Defendant was convicted of criminal endangerment after he purchased a half-gallon of eighty-proof whiskey for an 18-year old teenager who drank it, reached an alcohol level of approximately .584, and suffered near-fatal consequences. The Nevada Supreme Court ordered a new trial holding that admission of defendant’s 2001 conviction of criminal endangerment for providing alcohol to two 15-year old girls who were in a fatal accident was more prejudicial than probative. The court noted that the present complainant had reached the age of majority set by law and that, even if relevant to defendant’s knowledge of the risk, the prior conviction and its details were so prejudicial that the error required reversal. State v. Fleming, ___ P.3d ___ (10-07-2019, WL 4924830).

Nevada: New Trial Required Where
Trial Court Failed to Give
Voluntary Manslaughter Jury Instruction

The trial court’s failure to give a voluntary manslaughter jury instruction was not harmless error where: 1) defendant did not testify; 2) there was no direct evidence of the events, but there was evidence that the victim was under the influence of methamphetamine and that defendant and the victim fought frequently; 3) a witness testified that defendant, who appeared agitated, told her, shortly after the incident, that the victim had pushed him too far to where he “can't take it no more”; and 4) defendant initially took no measures to conceal the evidence of the killing, which occurred in a rented vehicle on a freeway on-ramp in a busy location, when defendant was in the driver’s seat and the victim was in the rear passenger seat, with two young children, one of whom was defendant’s. The circumstantial evidence presented suggested sudden heat of passion. Newson v. State, ___ P.3d ___ (10-10-2019, WL 5088491).