Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing as untimely Appellant's appeal of an order of the Board of Pardons and Paroles revoking Appellant's parole, holding that the circuit court did not err. Thirty-four days after the Board entered an amended order revoking Appellant's parole the clerk of court received and filed Appellant's pro se notice of appeal. The Board filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, claiming it was untimely. The circuit court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err when it dismissed as untimely Appellant's appeal of the Board's decision revoking Appellant's parole; and (2) did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's request for a standby attorney at the hearing on the motion to dismiss his appeal. View "Abdulrazzak v. South Dakota Board of Pardons & Paroles" on Justia 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 affirmed Defendant's conviction of hit and run involving an injury, holding that the State was not required to prove that Defendant had knowledge of an accident-related injury. Defendant pled guilty to driving under the influence, second offense, and, after a bench trial, was convicted of felony hit and run. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred when it found that S.D. Codified Laws 32-34-5 does not require knowledge of the injury as an essential element. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the circuit court did not err in determining that knowledge of the injury was not an essential element of a felony hit-and-run offense and denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. View "State v. Nekolite" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of second-degree murder, holding that the circuit court did not err in its evidentiary rulings and that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court abused its discretion by admitting other acts testimony from three witnesses over Defendant's objection and erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant failed to establish that the admission of the challenged testimony was unfairly prejudicial or that it affected the jury's verdict; and (2) because a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of second-degree murder. View "State v. Harruff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal and refusing Defendant's requested jury instructions pertaining to the language of "directly" in S.D. Codified Laws 22-22-45 and specific intent, holding that there was no reversible error in this case. After a jury trial, Defendant, an inmate, was found guilty of one count of threatening to commit a sexual offense. The conviction stemmed from Defendant's act of writing and mailing two letters containing threats to rape and murder a mental health therapist at the prison where Defendant was incarcerated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; and (2) the circuit court's instructions to the jury pertaining to the language of "directly" in S.D. Codified Laws 22-22-45 and specific intent did not prejudice Defendant. View "State v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 circuit court's judgment denying Appellant's second application for writ of habeas corpus, holding that Defendant did not meet his burden to show deficient performance and prejudice on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims and that Appellant's remaining claims were not reviewable or meritorious habeas claims. In his habeas corpus application, Appellant claimed that his original guilty pleas were not made voluntarily and intelligently, that the court upon his resentencing abused its discretion when it denied his motion to introduce evidence of the State's alleged inconsistent previous arguments, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his initial change of plea hearing and at his jury resentencing. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant cannot challenge his guilty plea or alleged inconsistent arguments on the merits under the procedural framework of a habeas action; and (2) Appellant did not meet the Strickland standard to establish ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Piper v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 convictions for second-degree rape and simple assault, holding that the circuit court erred when it admitted a narrative report prepared by an emergency room nurse summarizing the victim's oral statements made during a sexual assault examination, but the error was harmless. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial and in admitting the sexual assault examination note. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a mistrial; and (2) the circuit court erred in admitting the victim's statements describing her assailant and what occurred and what was said after the attack, but the error was harmless because Defendant failed to demonstrate that the error, in all probability, produced some effect upon the final result of the trial. View "State v. Packard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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