Monday, June 22, 2009

Supreme Court Update, June 18, 2009

State v. Abshire (535A08). COA reversed, conviction upheld. Conviction for failure to notify state of change of address for sex offender registry. Law requires written notice of a change of address within 10 days. Defendant 1st reported in October of 2001 and reported 13 changes since that time. State's evidence consisted of a statement of a person at the reported address saying that Defendant did not live there, but was only "in and out" and received USPS mail there. Defendant had gotten into a fight and moved in with his parents for, according to his parents, two weeks, but was planning to return to his other address when things cooled off. Held. Address is not just where one receives mail, but the actual place of abode, whether permanent or temporary. Here, temporary change of abode for more than 10 days, so changed address and guilty. Court refused to apply the lenity doctrine, finding that the meaning of address was clear. Court of appeals decision, reversing conviction, reversed. (See original post of COA decision.)

State v. Alston, (558A08). Per curiam affirmed. See post on lower court decision, on issue of constructive possession, here.

State v. Icard
(236A08). Trial court erred in denying motion to dismiss. Defendant was removed from a truck, ordered to bring her purse, and placed in a police car to be questioned. During questioning, the Officer asked to see what was in her purse. Defendant handed the officer her purse. It was searched and contained drugs. Held: Fruit of the search must be suppressed as the product of an illegal seizure. The officers actions in ordering her out of her car and into his for questioning was a seizure, for which he did not have probable cause. Here, the Officers actions in
initiating the encounter, informing the defednant he was investigating drugs and prostitution, call for backup, persistence after defendant failed to responds to his original requests, request that the Defendant produce ID, and request that the Defendant exit the vehicle and bring her purse constituted a seizure, as a reasonable person would not feel free to leave.

Justice Newby Dissented.

State v. Maness, (402A06). After an hour and forty minutes of deliberation, the jury came back with a life verdict. During polling, however, 7 jurors indicated that they did not agree with that verdict. During this process, people in the audience were crying and cheering. The Judge found that he had to order more deliberations and denied defense motion for a mistrial. About an hour later, the jury came back with a unanimous verdict for death. Defense renewed its motion for a mistrial, based on the emotional response. While the trial court erred in believing it did not have authority to impose a life sentence, it did not commit error by requiring more negotiations. Hudson dissented.

State v. Ramos, (535A08). COA decision affirmed, granting new trial, where Court failed to instruct on the element of willfullness. (See post on COA decision).

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