Articles Posted in Criminal 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

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The State charged defendant Christopher Sharrow with second-degree murder in July 2013. While defendant was incarcerated pretrial, his counsel requested a competency hearing. The court ordered an evaluation and the Department of Mental Health selected a neutral expert to conduct the evaluation. The neutral expert conducted a competency evaluation in early 2015, but defense counsel was not present when the doctor conducted the examination. Counsel moved for a reevaluation. Again, the court ordered an evaluation and the Department selected a second expert. The second expert requested access to the first expert’s report and later requested a neuropsychological consult. The Department declined to provide funding for a neuropsychological examination, and the expert, who maintained that such an examination was necessary to complete the competency evaluation, suggested that the court reassign the evaluation to another doctor. One year later, the court granted that request and the Department subsequently appointed another expert to conduct the competency evaluation. The third court-appointed expert concluded that “defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial for the alleged offense.” The parties received a copy of that report on May 23, 2016. In the meantime, defense counsel engaged its own expert to perform a competency evaluation, which was completed on April 24, 2015. Defendant did not attempt to introduce the results of its expert’s report. Nevertheless, after receiving the third expert’s report, the State retained its own expert, and at a status conference, requested that its expert be given access to defendant in order to conduct a fifth competency evaluation. Defendant objected to the State’s request, arguing that “[t]he [c]ourt has no legal authority to order [defendant] to submit to a psychiatric evaluation arranged by the State.” In a written order the court granted the State’s motion and ordered defendant to submit to a competency evaluation conducted by the State’s expert. In response, defendant filed this interlocutory appeal. The Vermont Supreme Court held the State may not compel such an evaluation, and therefore reversed. View "Vermont v. Sharrow" on Justia Law

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Defendant Keith Baird and two others were charged with burglary, kidnapping, and first-degree murder for their involvement with the 2010 death of seventy-eight-year-old Mary O’Hagan at her home in Sheffield, Vermont. The basis for defendant’s murder charge was that the murder occurred during the commission of a burglary in which defendant participated and therefore constituted felony murder. Defendant filed a Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 12(d) motion to dismiss the first-degree murder charge, arguing that the State could not establish a prima facie case because it could not show that defendant killed the victim or that he had the necessary mental state for first-degree felony murder. A deposition of Richard Fletcher, one of the codefendants, provided most of the admissible evidence in support of the State’s opposition to the motion to dismiss; facts in the investigating police officer’s affidavit of which he had first-hand knowledge provided additional support for the State’s opposition. Following a hearing, the court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed, finding the evidence of wantonness was sufficient for the question of defendant’s mental state to survive a Rule 12(d) motion to dismiss. Because the State produced sufficient evidence that fairly and reasonably tended to show the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the Court reinstated the murder charge and remanded for further proceedings. View "Vermont v. Baird" on Justia Law

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In July 2009, petitioner Anthony Bridger was charged in three counties with committing numerous burglaries. Petitioner pled guilty in the Bennington and Windham County cases before the Bennington Criminal Division in September 2009. These cases were then transferred to the Rutland Criminal Division for purposes of joining the pending Rutland matter and for sentencing. In February 2010, petitioner pled guilty before the Rutland Criminal Division to sixteen counts of burglary in the Rutland docket pursuant to a plea agreement. The remaining Rutland charges, nine counts of grand larceny and eight counts of petit larceny, were dismissed. In addition to an oral Rule 11 colloquy, petitioner signed a written waiver of his rights; he also signed restitution orders. At the sentencing hearing, the State noted that petitioner had cooperated with police and provided them with a full and complete confession. The court sentenced petitioner to six-to-twenty-years on the Rutland charges, and eighteen-months-to-five-years on the transferred Bennington dockets, to be served concurrently with the Rutland counts. In August 2015, petitioner filed a PCR petition, challenging the sufficiency of the Rutland Criminal Division’s plea colloquy under Rule 11(f). Petitioner argued that he was entitled to summary judgment because he did not admit to any facts, and the court’s colloquy on this point was “unlawfully sparse.” The State opposed the motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment in its favor. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with petitioner, reversed and remanded. View "In re Anthony Bridger" on Justia Law