Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the trial court did not err in determining that the State did not engage in purposeful discrimination when it used a peremptory challenge that excluded from the jury the sole person of color in the jury pool. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of conviction entered in the Unified Criminal Docket convicting Defendant of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. On appeal, Defendant, who described himself as an African American male, argued that the State engaged in purposeful discrimination when it peremptorily challenged the juror at issue. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that the trial court did not err when it determined that the prosecutor did not engage in purposeful discrimination. View "State v. Hollis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Appellant’s petition for postconviction relief and vacating his conviction of sexual abuse of a minor, holding that the court’s factual findings were supported by competent evidence in the record. After a hearing, the postconviction court found that Appellant had been deprived of the effective assistance of counsel and vacated his conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court’s finding that Appellant had been deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial was supported by competent record evidence. View "Fahnley v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress his blood-alcohol test results as having been procured without a warrant and without voluntary consent, holding that Defendant consented to the blood test. The blood test was taken upon probable cause to believe that the ability of Defendant, the driver of the motor vehicle, to operate the vehicle was impaired by intoxicants. On appeal, Defendant argued that the blood test was unconstitutional because it was taken without a warrant and her consent to the test was rendered involuntary by the warning of an increased minimum sentence if she refused to consent and was then convicted. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that no coercion results from a law enforcement officer’s statement to a driver that, if she is ultimately convicted of operating under the influence, her failure to submit to a blood draw would subject her to an enhanced criminal penalty, including a minimum mandatory jail term. View "State v. Lemeunier-Fitzgerald" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv), holding that Father failed to present a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the record evidence supported the court’s findings and discretionary determinations. On appeal, Father argued that his counsel’s withdrawal two months before the termination hearing amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Father did not demonstrate prejudice from counsel’s performance. View "In re Child of Stephen E." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of assault, holding that Defendant was not denied a fair trial because one of the jurors reported that she had felt pressured to return a guilty verdict. After the court informed the parties of the juror’s statement and invited the parties to be heard, the court concluded that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the guilty verdict would stand. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because there was no evidence of outside influence, bias, or misconduct, and therefore, the juror’s statement that she felt pressured to return a guilty verdict fell within the categories of evidence prohibited from use by Me. R. Evid. 606(b)(1). View "State v. Leon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of conviction entered by the sentencing court following Defendant’s guilty plea to an information charging him with felony murder. The sentencing court imposed a prison sentence of twenty years, all but ten years suspended, with four years’ probation and a restitution order. On appeal, Defendant argued that his sentence was unconstitutionally disproportionate and denied his constitutional right to equal protection. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant’s offense and sentence did not generate an “inference of gross disproportionality”; and (2) notwithstanding the fact that Defendant’s codefendant received only a seven-year sentence, Defendant’s sentence did not violate Defendant’s equal protection rights. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), holding that the court did not err in its parental unfitness and best interest determinations and that Father was not denied due process. The Court held (1) the district court did not err by determining that Father was unfit because he was unable to “meet his son’s special needs and take responsibility for him in a reasonable time to meet those needs” and to “protect his son from jeopardy in a reasonable time to meet his needs” and that termination was in the child’s best interest; and (2) Father was not denied due process. View "In re Child of James R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), holding that the court did not err in its parental unfitness and best interest determinations and that Father was not denied due process. The Court held (1) the district court did not err by determining that Father was unfit because he was unable to “meet his son’s special needs and take responsibility for him in a reasonable time to meet those needs” and to “protect his son from jeopardy in a reasonable time to meet his needs” and that termination was in the child’s best interest; and (2) Father was not denied due process. View "In re Child of James R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of arson. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court violated his right to be protected against double jeopardy by admitting in his trial evidence on which the State relied to try to prove some of the charges of which Defendant was acquitted in a prior trial. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that the admission of that evidence was barred by collateral estoppel and violated Defendant’s right to be protected from double jeopardy and that the error was not harmless. View "State v. Weckerly" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of three counts of possession of sexually explicit material, thus denying Defendant’s challenges to the denial of his motion to suppress statements and digital evidence obtained by the police after they entered his home. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in finding that he consented to the police officers’ entry into his home, which resulted in the search and seizure of his computer. The Supreme Judicial Court held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that Defendant consented to the officers’ entry. View "State v. Marquis" on Justia Law