Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the district court’s denial of Appellant’s second postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a death penalty case, holding that an evidentiary hearing was required as to Appellant’s judicial bias claim. Appellant’s petition challenging his conviction for two first-degree murders and death sentences was both untimely and successive. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the petition as procedurally barred, concluding that Appellant did not show good cause and prejudice to excuse the procedural bars to his petition. The United States Supreme Court vacated the Supreme Court’s opinion and remanded for further proceedings, concluding that the Court applied the wrong legal standard as to Appellant’s judicial bias claim. On reconsideration of the judicial bias claim, the Supreme Court held that an evidentiary hearing was required with respect to several issues related to the claim. The Court remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the judicial bias claim and affirmed the remainder of the district court’s order. View "Rippo v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this criminal case was whether the defense must place intent or absence of mistake at issue before prior act evidence may be admitted under Nev. Rev. Stat. 48.045(2). Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, and other crimes. During trial, the court admitted evidence concerning Defendant’s prior residential burglary conviction to prove intent and absence of mistake. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of conviction, holding (1) the defense need not place intent or absence of mistake at issue before the State may seek admission of prior act evidence if the evidence is relevant to prove an element of the offense; but (2) because the evidence of Defendant’s prior residential burglary conviction had little relevance or probative value as to his intent or absence of mistake when compared to the danger of unfair prejudice resulting from its propensity inference, the district court manifestly abused its discretion in admitting the evidence, and the error was not harmless. View "Hubbard v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that double jeopardy did not prohibit Defendant’s retrial under the circumstances of this case because Defendant impliedly consented to the district court’s declaration of a mistrial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. Defendant stood trial on charges of murder and battery with substantial bodily harm. The district court declared a mistrial after a juror conducted extrinsic legal research and shared that information with other jurors after a weekend recess in jury deliberations. The district court dismissed Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges based on double jeopardy and set the matter for a new trial. Defendant petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to grant his motion to dismiss and bar his re-prosecution. The Supreme Court denied the petition on the merits, holding that a second prosecution was not barred by double jeopardy where Defendant did not object to the mistrial, Defendant agreed with the court’s analysis of juror misconduct, Defendant gave his implied consent to mistrial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding manifest necessity to declare a mistrial. View "Granda-Ruiz v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Parole Board’s use of the Static-99R recidivism risk assessment comports with Nev. Rev. Stat. 213.1214’s assessment requirements, that changes to parole procedures do not constitute an ex post facto violation, and that the use of the Static-99R assessment does not violate an inmate’s due process rights. As part of Appellant’s parole review, his recidivism risk was assessed with the Static-99R risk assessment. The assessment classified Appellant as a high risk to recidivate, and the Parole Board denied parole. Appellant filed a petition for declaratory judgment challenging the Static-99R assessment. The district court granted the State’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s claim that the Static-99R assessment was not formally adopted as or determined to be a “currently accepted standard of assessment” for use in Appellant’s parole hearing; (2) because Appellant failed to show that changes to the parole statute enacted after his conviction created a risk of prolonged imprisonment, they did not constitute impermissible ex post facto punishment; and (3) the district court did not err in denying Appellant’s claim that the use of the Static-99R violated his due process rights. View "Coles v. Bisbee" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Supreme Court should adopt a rule of admissibility that would limit the use of a probationer’s testimony at a revocation hearing in a subsequent criminal proceeding. The issue stemmed from the tension between the due process right to have an opportunity to be heard and present mitigating evidence at a revocation hearing and the right against self-incrimination as to criminal charges related to the alleged probation violation. The Supreme Court invoked its supervisory powers and adopted an admissibility rule in the interest of basic fairness and the administration of justice to limit the use of a probation’s testimony given at a probation revocation hearing. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s revocation of Defendant’s probation and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Cooper v. State" on Justia Law

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When a plea agreement allows a defendant to plead guilty to a first offense for a second domestic battery conviction, it is reasonable for the defendant to expect first-offense treatment of the conviction for all purposes unless the defendant receives appropriate warning, or explicitly agrees, that the State may count the conviction as a second offense for future enhancement purposes. At issue was the increasingly serious penalties imposed by Nevada law on repeat domestic battery offenders, a first such offense being a misdemeanor and a third offense within seven years constituting a felony. John Kephart was convicted of domestic battery, his third such offense in seven years. Kephart’s second domestic battery conviction resulted from a plea bargain by which Kephart pleaded guilty to a “first offense” domestic battery. The district court refused to consider Kephart’s second “first offense” conviction at sentencing for enhancement purposes because it would be "unfair." The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that using Kephart’s two prior “first offense” convictions to enhance his third domestic battery conviction to a felony did not violate the plea bargain by which the second conviction was obtained because, before entering his plea, Kephart acknowledged that the State could use the second “first offense” and any prior offenses for enhancement purposes should Kephart commit another domestic battery within seven years. View "State v. Second Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A criminal defendant’s request to represent himself was properly denied as “untimely” when the request was made twenty-four hours prior to the scheduled trial date. Defendant was convicted of burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, first degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, and coercion. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions but vacated his deadly weapon sentencing enhancements, holding (1) under Lyons v. State, 796 P.2d 210 (Nev. 1990), which is consistent with United States Supreme Court precedent, a defendant’s request to represent himself may be denied as untimely if granting it will delay trial; (2) the State produced sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant’s convictions for robbery and kidnapping even when both convictions stemmed from Defendant’s actions over the course of a single incident; and (3) there was insufficient evidence that Defendant’s “weapon” satisfied an applicable definition of deadly weapon. View "Guerrina v. State" on Justia Law

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A party waives the right to challenge on appeal a juror’s presence on the jury where the party’s appellate argument is based on facts known to the party during voir dire, the party consciously elected not to pursue - or abandoned - a challenge for cause on that basis, and the party accepted the juror’s presence on the jury. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of thirteen counts of possession of credit or debit card without cardholder’s consent. The Court held (1) Defendant waived his appellate argument of juror bias as to two jurors he passed for cause below; and (2) the district court erred by denying one of Defendant’s challenges for cause as to a certain juror, but the error was harmless and did not warrant reversal. View "Sayedzada v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s postconviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus as procedurally barred without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. More than one year after remittitur issued from his direct appeal, Appellant filed the postconviction petition at issue in this case. The petition was both untimely filed and successive and, thus, procedurally barred absent a demonstration of good cause and prejudice. Further, Appellant was required to overcome the presumption of prejudice to the State. To overcome the procedural bars, Appellant argued that the State committed a Brady violation, that his attorneys were ineffective during the litigation of his prior postconviction petition, and that he was actually innocent of the death penalty. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of the petition without an evidentiary hearing, holding that Appellant failed to demonstrate that the district court erred. View "Moore v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Striking a prospective juror based on sexual orientation is impermissible under the United States and Nevada Constitutions. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for robbery and misdemeanor battery, holding that the district court did not commit any error from the time it held a competency hearing for Defendant to when it entered the judgment of conviction. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err with respect to Defendant’s competency hearing; (2) the delay in Defendant’s subsequent transfer to a psychiatric facility for the purpose of restoring competency to stand trial did not warrant dismissal of the charges; (3) the district court did not err with respect to jury selection and closing arguments; and (4) there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. View "Morgan v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law