Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendants' convictions of first-degree manslaughter and sentences of life imprisonment, holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion in either case. Daniel Ceplecha and his son, Rangler Ceplecha, each pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter pursuant to a plea agreement. Prior to sentencing, Defendants filed motions to withdraw their pleas, asserting that they acted in self-defense. The circuit court denied the motions. Thereafter, the circuit court sentenced each defendant to life in prison. The Supreme Court affirmed, that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Rangler's motion for new counsel because he failed to establish a fair and just reason in support of his request; (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendants' motions to withdraw their guilty pleas; and (3) did not abuse its discretion or violate the Eighth Amendment by imposing life sentences. View "State v. Ceplecha" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his hotel room pursuant to a search warrant, holding that the officer who previously detained Defendant's vehicle and gathered information eventually contained in the search warrant affidavit did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Defendant's vehicle and that all evidence obtained after the stop must be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Defendant was stopped because the officer observed a brake light emit a white light. A consent search of the vehicle did not produce evidence of unlawful drugs, but the officer later found a foil ball in the vehicle, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Thereafter, police officers seized evidence from Defendant's hotel room pursuant to a search warrant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because it had two properly working brake lights. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the officer did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Defendant's vehicle; and (2) once the information derived from the unlawful traffic stop was excluded from the search warrant affidavit, it lacked a substantial basis upon which probable cause could be found. View "State v. Tenold" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the habeas court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden to prove his trial counsel was ineffective when it made the strategic decision not to employ or consult experts. Appellant was convicted of the first-degree murder of his wife and received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Appellant later sought a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he did not engage any expert witnesses to evaluate certain evidence. The circuit court denied the habeas petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where defense counsel's decisions were reasonable to advance Defendant's defense theory and where Defendant could not satisfy Strickland's prejudice requirement, the habeas court did not err when it denied Appellant's habeas petition. View "Reay v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first-degree rape of a child under age thirteen, holding that the circuit court erred in admitting statements from an unavailable witness, but the error was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge's order admitting, as other acts evidence, statements from an unavailable witness violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statements at issue were testimonial and of a constitutional magnitude; (2) the circuit court's decision to admit the statements violated Defendant's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation; but (3) the affect of the circuit court's error in admitting the statements at trial was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Richmond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and other offenses, holding that the circuit court did not err by denying Defendant's motions to suppress and did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's proposed jury instructions on lesser-included offenses. Prior to trial, Defendant filed three motions to suppress his statements to law enforcement and also moved to suppress evidence derivative of his arrest on the basis that the officer engaged in racial profiling as the basis for the traffic stop. The circuit court denied the motions to suppress. Defendant was subsequently convicted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's motions to suppress; and (2) did not err in refusing to give Defendant's proposed lesser included offense instructions. View "State v. Willingham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the magistrate court that Defendant's motion to suppress should be granted in accordance with an earlier order of the circuit court, holding that Defendant's constitutional rights were not violated, and therefore, Defendant's motion to suppress should have been denied. Defendant was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence as a result of his encounter with a police officer, arguing that he was not detained based on reasonable suspicion, and therefore, the stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment of the federal constitution and Article VI of the state constitution. The magistrate court denied the motion to suppress and entered a judgment of conviction. The circuit court reversed and ordered that Defendant's motion to suppress should be granted. The magistrate court then entered its order acting in accordance with the circuit court's order and granted Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to hear the State's appeal; and (2) the officer developed a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before seizing Defendant, and therefore the evidence from the stop should not have been suppressed. View "State v. Sharpfish" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for theft by exploitation in an amount exceeding $5,000, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error. Specifically, the Court held that the circuit court (1) did not violate Defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment by finding Defendant's waiver of his right to counsel was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent; (2) did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal; (3) did not err in ordering Defendant to pay $31,743.82 in restitution; and (4) did not impose a sentence that violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. View "State v. Hauge" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of four counts of rape in the fourth degree, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of solicitation of a minor, and a misdemeanor count of enticing a child away, holding that Defendant's sentences did not violate double jeopardy protections and that the State did not commit prosecutorial misconduct. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) his sentences for sexual exploitation of a minor and solicitation of a minor violated the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment because those convictions arose from the same conduct as the rape convictions; and (2) in asking about similarities between Defendant's step-daughter and the victim during cross-examination the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) any error in conviction and sentence for solicitation and sexual exploitation of a minor was not plain; and (2) Defendant did not show that the State's improper cross-examination affected his substantial rights. View "State v. McMillen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of simple assault and kidnapping, holding that the trial court did not err in the proceedings below and that Defendant's sentence was not unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err when it denied Defendant's motion for a mistrial for an alleged Brady violation; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Defendant's motion for a mistrial; (3) Defendant was not denied a fair trial due to cumulative errors; and (4) Defendant's sentence was not grossly disproportionate or excessive. View "State v. Delehoy" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the magistrate judge's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a vehicle stop, holding the magistrate judge did not err by concluding that the stop was justified under the community caretaker exception. Defendant was convicted in magistrate court of driving under the influence. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress all evidence and statements obtained during the traffic stop, arguing that the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer was acting in his community caretaking role when he stopped Defendant's vehicle in the parking lot, and the officer provided specific and articulable facts supporting his decision to stop Defendant's vehicle. View "State v. Short Bull" on Justia Law