Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant Tyler Heffernan was convicted by jury for simple assault and disorderly conduct after a late-night brawal in downtown Burlington. On appeal, he argued: (1) the court abused its discretion and denied him his rights to present a defense, to compulsory process, and to due process when it denied his motion to continue the trial despite the unavailability of a key witness due to her hospitalization; and (2) the court erred by not declaring a mistrial when a prospective juror who had previously worked with defendant as his supervisor made negative comments about defendant during jury selection. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed defendant’s convictions and remanded for a new trial on the basis that defendant was prejudiced by the inability to present testimony from the hospitalized witness. The Court did not reach defendant’s second issue regarding the mistrial. View "Vermont v. Heffernan" on Justia Law

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In 2015, a jury found defendant Juan Villar guilty of operating a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The trial court sentenced defendant to six months to three years, all suspended except for fifteen days to serve, and placed him on probation. Defendant appealed; his sentence was not stayed pending appeal. "The appeals process was slow." The issue on appeal this case addressed was whether the government could dismiss an indictment or information pursuant to Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 48(a) while the case was pending on appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that it may. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court erred in denying the state’s attorney’s notice of dismissal. Pursuant to Rule 48(a), the Court vacated the conviction and dismiss the underlying charges. View "Vermont v. Villar" on Justia Law

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Defendant Matthew Webster was convicted by jury of second-degree murder, reckless endangerment, and careless and negligent operation. Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress statements he gave to the police following his arrest, an evidentiary ruling at trial permitting certain expert testimony, the trial court’s refusal to charge voluntary manslaughter, the denial of his motion for a new trial based on the prosecutor’s statements in closing argument, and the trial court’s imposition of a sentence of forty years to life on the murder conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Webster" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christian Allis entered a conditional plea to a first offense for driving under the influence (DUI), reserving the right to appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained during law enforcement entry into his home. Defendant argued on appeal that the trial court’s erred in its decision to deny his suppression motion because: (1) the police entered his home without consent; and (2) even if there was consent, the State failed to prove that the consent was voluntarily given. After review of the trial court record, the Vermont Supreme Court found the State failed to meet its burden to prove consent to enter and, accordingly, reversed. View "Vermont v. Allis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kai Freeman appeals a jury verdict convicting him of ten separate charges. Defendant was charged with eleven offenses relating to the sexual assaults of five minors. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred when it declined to sever the offenses charged against him. He also argued that the State did not present sufficient evidence upon which the jury could reasonably find him guilty of two of the charged offenses. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Freeman" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from an embezzlement case concerning four missing bank deposits defendant Gregory Manning was entrusted to make for his employers. Defendant argued on appeal that: (1) the State’s failure to preserve potentially exculpatory video evidence should have resulted in the trial court dismissing the charge or at least barring the State from presenting testimony concerning the video recordings in question; (2) the State’s closing argument impermissibly shifted the burden to him to preserve the video evidence and improperly impugned his defense; and (3) given his continuing claim of innocence, the sentencing court’s probation condition requiring him to complete a particular program in which he would have to accept responsibility for his crime was not individually tailored to his case and thus constituted an abuse of the court’s discretion. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. View "Vermont v. Manning" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alexis Gabree appealed the superior court’s decision to dismiss her petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). She argued that, during the plea colloquy, she never personally admitted that a factual basis for the charges existed, in violation of Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f). After review, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded. View "In re Alexis Gabree" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alexis Gabree appealed the superior court’s decision to dismiss her petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). She argued that, during the plea colloquy, she never personally admitted that a factual basis for the charges existed, in violation of Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f). After review, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded. View "In re Alexis Gabree" on Justia Law

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Defendant Diane Stewart was convicted of embezzling from her former employer. She appealed the trial court’s restitution order that required her to pay the bank the amount that she had embezzled, arguing that the bank was not a direct victim of the crime and therefore was not entitled to restitution. This case presented the issue of whether a bank is entitled to restitution as a “direct victim” of a crime when it incurred financial harm by reimbursing an accountholder for funds it had previously drawn from the account to pay a check that turned out to be forged. The Vermont Supreme Court held restitution was appropriate in cases such as this one where defendant’s crime directly harms the bank that must reimburse a customer’s account for embezzled funds. View "Vermont v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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At issue in his post-conviction relief (PCR) appeal was whether petitioner Thomas Sharrow received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The PCR court vacated petitioner’s conviction of attempted second-degree murder on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel; the PCR court concluded that petitioner’s trial counsel failed to object to jury instructions that did not require the State prove the absence of passion or provocation in order to convict for attempted second-degree murder and did not include attempted voluntary manslaughter as a lesser offense. On appeal, the State did not challenge the PCR court’s conclusion that counsel was ineffective in petitioner’s underlying criminal trial, but argued petitioner was not prejudiced by the ineffective assistance. Finding no reversible error in the PCR court’s conclusion, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Thomas S. Sharrow" on Justia Law