Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress her statements to highway patrol troopers and the marijuana they subsequently found in her car, holding that the record supported the district court’s finding that Defendant’s statements to the troopers were not coerced and the conclusion that the troopers did not violate Defendant’s due process rights. Defendant was the passenger in a car that was stopped for speeding. In response to questioning by the troopers, Defendant admitted to possessing medical marijuana that was located in the back of the car. After a search, the the troopers discovered marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the troopers’ detention and questioning of Defendant after the traffic stop was not unreasonable under the circumstances; and (2) Defendant gave her statements to the troopers voluntarily and and without coercion. View "Rodriguez v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s conviction of felony possession of marijuana, holding that Defendant did not demonstrate plain error when a supervisor from the state crime lab testified in place of the lab analyst who tested and weighed the marijuana. On appeal, Defendant argued that the State’s admission of the lab report containing the lab analyst’s conclusions violated his right to confrontation because the supervisor testified in place of the analyst. The Supreme Court affirmed without addressing the confrontation issues, holding that, even if the admission violated the confrontation clause, Defendant was not prejudiced. View "Lewis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed convictions of Defendants - Dennis Larkins and Emily Larkins - for multiple counts of child abuse and one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) the district court did not err when it denied Defendants’ motion for new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) while some of the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to misconduct, the misconduct did not materially prejudice either Defendant. View "Larkins v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint alleging negligence and violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983 after Linda Gelok was injured after being left unattended for twenty-five hours at the Wyoming State Hospital (WSH), holding that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S. C. 1983 against Paul Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his individual capacity. On behalf of Linda Gelok, an involuntarily committed incompetent person, Plaintiff sued the WSH, the Wyoming Department of Health, and Mullenax, WSH Administrator, in his official and individual capacities, alleging negligence and violation of her constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed the negligence action as time-barred. As to the constitutional claims, the district court found that the WSH, the Department, and Mullenax in his official capacity were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and that Mullenax was entitled to qualified immunity in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court held (1) Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-3-107 barred Plaintiff’s negligent health care claim; (2) the district court properly dismissed Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against most defendants; but (3) Plaintiff’s complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Mullenax in his individual capacity. View "Wyoming Guardianship Corp. v. Wyoming State Hospital" on Justia Law

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Appellant Steven Mitchell was held in contempt of court for violating a custody order. The district court ordered confinement until Mitchell purged himself of contempt by relinquishing custody of the minor child. While confined for contempt, Mitchell pled no contest to one count of felony interference with custody, for which he received a sentence of three and one-half years to five years of imprisonment, with no credit for presentence incarceration. The district court also ordered the criminal sentence to commence on termination of Mitchell’s confinement for contempt. Mitchell appeals his criminal sentence contending it was illegal. Finding no reversible error or illegality, the Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of delivery of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, holding that Defendant was not denied his right to a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. On appeal, Defendant argued that his right to a fair trial was violated and he was materially prejudiced because the prosecutor committed impermissible misconduct during closing argument by misquoting certain testimony and by attributing a statement to a witness that had not been introduced at trial. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different absent the prosecutor’s statements challenged on appeal. View "Osterling v. State" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the juvenile court’s order on permanency hearing, the Supreme Court held that Father was not prejudiced by the juvenile court’s delay in appointing an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and the juvenile court did not err in denying Father’s request for transport to the hearing. At issue on appeal was whether the juvenile court (1) violated Father’s due process rights when it did not advise him of his right to counsel and did not appoint an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and (2) erred in denying Father’s request for transport to attend the hearing in person. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile court violated a clear rule of law when it failed to advise Father of his right to counsel at his first appearance in the proceeding and failed to act on Father’s initial request for appointment of counsel, but these errors did not materially prejudice Father; and (2) Father’s due process rights were not violated when the juvenile court denied Father’s request for transport to the permanency hearing. View "FH v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for felony possession of anabolic steroids found in a search of his vehicle. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to suppress the drugs found in his vehicle, arguing (1) the peace officer lacked probable cause to stop Defendant; (2) the peach officer lacked subsequent reasonable suspicion to detain; (3) the canine drug sniff while inside Defendant’s vehicle constituted an illegal search and seizure; and (4) the peace officer did not have additional probable cause to search absent the illegal dog sniff. The Supreme Court held that (1) because Appellant failed to present the district court with his arguments about probable cause for the stop or reasonable suspicion to continue his attention, these claims will not be considered on appeal; and (2) the circumstances established probable cause to search Defendant’s vehicle, even before the dog indicated there were drugs in the trunk. View "Pier v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for aggravated assault and battery and breach of peace, thus rejecting Defendant’s claims of error on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court properly instructed the jury regarding the definition of “threatened to use” as defined in Wyoming law; (2) the district court abused its discretion when it admitted uncharged misconduct evidence at trial without first conducting a Gleason analysis, but the error was harmless; and (3) the State presented sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s aggravated assault and battery conviction by presenting evidence that Defendant “threatened to use a drawn deadly weapon” against Gordon Johnson. View "Birch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant asserting claims for defamation per se and injunctive relief, although on grounds different from those expressed by the district court. Plaintiff filed her claims against Defendant after Defendant made statements critical of Plaintiff’s performance as Superintendent of Public Instruction. The district court concluded that Defendant’s statements implicated First Amendment concerns and dismissed the complaint for failure to allege facts sufficient to support the constitutionally-required showing of actual malice. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the district court properly found that Plaintiff was a public official for First Amendment purposes; (2) the complaint stated facts sufficient to support a claim for actual malice; but (3) the complaint failed to allege facts sufficient to state a claim for defamation per se, and on that ground, the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s dismissal. View "Hill v. Stubson" on Justia Law