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Case Summary for April 30, 2013

THE FOLLOWING DOCKET SUMMARIES ARE PREPARED BY THE COURT'S STAFF FOR THE INTEREST AND CONVENIENCE OF THE READER. THE SUMMARIES MAY NOT INCLUDE ALL ISSUES PENDING BEFORE THE COURT AND DO NOT REFLECT ANY OPINION OF THE COURT ON THE MERITS OF A CASE. COPIES OF ALL BRIEFS FILED WITH THE COURT ARE AVAILABLE AT THE SUPREME COURT BUILDING, COURT EN BANC DIVISION. SUMMARIES ARE UNOFFICIAL AND SHOULD NOT BE QUOTED OR CITED.


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DOCKET SUMMARIES
SUPREME COURT OF MISSOURI

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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SC92979
State of Missouri v. Ledale Nathan
St. Louis city
Constitutional validity of juvenile certification process, challenge to life sentence for juvenile offender

Listen to the oral argument: SC92979.mp3
Nathan was represented during arguments by Jessica M. Hathaway, of the public defender's office in St. Louis, and the state was represented by Evan J. Buchheim of the attorney general's in Jefferson City.

Ledale Nathan was charged in the shooting death of a woman and shooting two other victims while robbing a building in October 2009, when he was 16 years old. The allegations initially were filed in the juvenile division but were refiled in the circuit court after he was certified to stand trial as an adult. Both motions were overruled. At trial, Nathan conceded he was guilty of second-degree murder, but he ultimately was convicted of first-degree murder along with armed criminal action, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder charge along with prison sentences for the remaining charges. Nathan appeals, and the state cross-appeals.

Nathan’s appeal

Nathan argues the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence. He contends the state failed to prove he committed first-degree murder because there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to find him guilty. Nathan asserts the evidence failed to prove he deliberated or coolly reflected on the murder. He argues the ruling violated his rights to due process, a fair trial and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. Nathan contends his age should have been considered at sentencing and he should have been convicted for the lesser offense of second-degree murder. He asserts life without parole is an unconstitutional sentence for a juvenile, citing Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct.
2455 (2012). Nathan argues section 211.071, RSMo, regarding the process for certifying a juvenile as an adult, is unconstitutional because it assumes the state’s allegations are true without inquiring into the facts and increases the range of sentences possible without an opportunity to be heard. He contends one of the jury instructions misdirected the jury, failed to give the applicable law, relieved the state of its burden of proof and affected the verdict in violation of his rights to a fair trial and due process. Nathan asserts the trial court erred in overruling his motion for a new trial because the state did not disclose to his counsel that one of its witnesses had two stealing convictions, which Nathan could have used to impeach the witness’s credibility. He argues the trial court should have disclosed the information, which was presented to the judge in camera (before the judge, without an audience present) and kept sealed, but which reflected on the witness’ credibility. Nathan contends the trial court erred in overruling his motion to dismiss certain charges that were not in the original juvenile court petition because charges that were not certified or in the petition to the juvenile division were brought against him at trial, which he contends was unconstitutional and violated his rights to notice and hearing on the issues.

The state responds the trial court correctly overruled Nathan’s motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence. It argues this Court should remand (send the case back) for resentencing only on the first-degree murder charge in light of Miller, which said that a statute could not mandate a sentence of life without parole for juveniles. The state contends the state sentencing procedures for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder are constitutional and that Nathan failed to prove they are unconstitutional. It asserts Nathan’s waiver of jury sentencing still should apply on remand. The state argues Nathan’s claim that sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles is not ready for review by this Court. It contends Nathan’s sentences for the non-homicide convictions do not violate the Eighth Amendment of the federal constitution. The state argues Nathan did not suffer manifest injustice because of the jury instruction. It contends the fact that its witness’s stealing convictions were not discovered during trial also did not cause manifest injustice. It asserts Nathan did not prove the trial court erred in holding a private hearing for evidence regarding the state’s witness and then sealing such evidence. The state argues the court correctly overruled Nathan’s motion to dismiss certain charges because the charges pertained to victims who were related to the incident that led to the juvenile division petition and the certification as an adult.

State’s cross-appeal

The state argues the trial court erred in dismissing four counts of its petition. It contends the trial court had jurisdiction because, under state law, a juvenile division only has jurisdiction over the juvenile, not the charges brought against the juvenile. The state asserts the juvenile division also lacks jurisdiction over potential charges that may be brought if the juvenile is certified as an adult. It argues that, following certification, the juvenile division’s jurisdiction is terminated and the state may bring any criminal charges it chooses, even if they are related to the same matter contained in the juvenile division petition.

Nathan responds the trial court correctly dismissed four counts of the state’s petition. He argues the counts were for an offense that was not referenced in the juvenile petition and the trial court did not have jurisdiction over that offense. Nathan contends the juvenile division petition must allege sufficient facts to give him notice of the charges and an opportunity to respond.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues, as a friend of the Court, that requiring a sentence of life imprisonment without probation or parole is unconstitutional as applied to juvenile defendants. It contends the sentencing process must allow defendants to present all relevant evidence relating to their juvenile status. The ACLU asserts the sentencing process must carry a presumption against life without parole. It argues the sentencing court should have a broad range of sentencing options, not limited to life in prison with or without parole.


SC92979_Nathan_brief.pdfSC92979_State_brief.pdfSC92979_Nathan_reply_brief.pdf

SC92979_ACLU_amicus_brief.pdf


SC92927
Sheena Eastburn v. State of Missouri
McDonald County
Post-conviction relief, challenge to life sentence for juvenile offender

Listen to the oral argument: SC92927.mp3
Eastburn was represented during arguments by Kent E. Gipson of the Law Office of Kent Gipson in Kansas City, and the state was represented by Shaun J. Mackelprang of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City.

Sheena Eastburn was convicted of first-degree murder as an accomplice in the shooting death of her husband in November 1992, when she was 17 years old, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prior to trial, Eastburn was examined by a mental health professional who determined she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline intellectual functioning with an IQ of 80. Eastburn’s trial counsel did not submit evidence of her mental impairments. Eastburn ultimately filed a motion for post-conviction relief, which the circuit court overruled. She then sought habeas corpus relief, which the federal court denied. Following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011 (2010), Eastburn moved to reopen her post-conviction relief proceeding, alleging trial counsel had abandoned the public defender’s office, had not brought claims Eastburn wished to be raised and had caused Eastburn to suffer manifest injustice. Eastburn’s counsel, the county prosecutor and the circuit court agreed to reopen the case, but the circuit court ultimately found it lacked authority to address all of Eastburn’s claims because they constituted a successive post-conviction relief motion, which rule 29.15 prohibited. The United States Supreme Court then decided Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), holding that a statute could not mandate a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders. The circuit court noted Miller in its judgment overruling Eastburn’s motion to reopen the post-conviction relief proceeding. Eastburn appeals

Eastburn argues the circuit court erred in overruling her motion for post-conviction relief for procedural violations. She contends the record establishes that her first-degree murder conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole violates the federal constitution because she was a juvenile when she committed the offense. Eastburn asserts the circuit court had jurisdiction to address the underlying constitutional claims because the parties and the court agreed to reopen her post-conviction relief proceeding. She argues her procedural bar defenses were waived because of the agreement to reopen, which gave the circuit court the authority and duty to address all issues in the case. Eastburn contends trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence from several mental health professionals that she suffered from multiple mental diseases and defects. She asserts this evidence would have been a defense to the charges of first-degree murder, would have established that she was being dominated by her co-defendant and probably would have meant a conviction for the lesser offense of second-degree murder.

The state responds the circuit court did not err in overruling Eastburn’s motion for post-conviction relief for procedural violations. It argues the merit of Eastburn’s constitutional validity claim in the present action is irrelevant to whether her post-conviction motion case should have been reopened. The state contends the circuit court did not have authority under rule 29.15 to consider her post-conviction motion and claims. It asserts the rule prohibits successive post-conviction motions, such as the present motion. The state argues the circuit court correctly found the parties did not agree to reopen the prior post-conviction relief hearing but merely agreed to proceed on a successive post-conviction motion. It contends Eastburn was not abandoned merely because her trial counsel allegedly filed a patently defective motion.

The Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argues, as a friend of the Court, that the trial court erred, abused its discretion, exceeded its jurisdiction or abdicated its jurisdiction in dismissing Eastburn’s reopened action for post-conviction relief. It contends the federal constitution prohibits a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for juveniles. The association asserts Easburn should have been given a remedy for her present, unlawful sentence. It argues denying Eastburn a procedural protection in respect to punishment violates her due process rights. The association contends Eastburn is entitled to remand (sending the case back) for sentencing within the portions of the state sentencing statutes not rendered unconstitutional.

SC92927_Eastburn_brief.pdfSC92927_State_brief.pdfSC92927_Eastburn_reply_brief.pdf

SC92927_Mo_Assoc_of_Crim_Defense_lawyers_amicus_brief.pdf


SC93153
State of Missouri v. Laron Hart
St. Louis city
Sentencing process for juveniles, challenge to sentence for juvenile offender

Listen to the oral argument: SC93153.mp3
Hart was represented during arguments by Gwenda R. Robinson, of the public defender's office in St. Louis, and the state was represented by Evan J. Buchheim of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City.

Laron Hart was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action and first degree robbery for the shooting death of a man and for the robbery of a woman at gunpoint in January 2010, when he was 17 years old. Hart was sentenced to life without possibility of probation or parole along with three 30-year sentences to be served at the same time. Hart waived jury sentencing. At trial, Hart testified that he had been home at the time of the crime but that the detectives had pressured him off camera to admit to being present at both robberies and the shooting. Following Hart’s trial, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), that a state could not mandate a sentence of life in prison without parole for juvenile offenders. Section 565.020.2, RSMo, which is the sentencing scheme for first-degree murder, mandates either a sentence of death or life in prison without possibility of probation or parole. Hart appeals.

Hart argues the trial court erred in convicting him of first-degree murder. He contends the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller renders his conviction unenforceable. Hart asserts his conviction violated his rights to due process and protection against cruel and unusual punishment. He argues his sentence violated the principle of proportionality and this Court should remand (send the case back) for resentencing by a jury. Hart contends his videotaped statements regarding uncharged crimes should have been excluded at trial because they constituted inadmissible propensity evidence. He asserts that if the evidence had been excluded, he would likely have been acquitted. Hart argues his videotaped statements were the product of coerced interrogation and violated his rights to due process, freedom from self-incrimination and the right to a fair trial.

The state responds this Court should remand for resentencing only on the first-degree murder charge in light of Miller. It argues the current state sentencing procedures are constitutional as applied to juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. The state contends only a sentencing scheme which mandates a life-without-parole sentence is unconstitutional and a juvenile still may be sentenced to life in prison without parole. It asserts Hart’s waiver of jury sentencing still should apply. The state argues the videotaped statements regarding the other robberies did not amount to evidence of other crimes because officers did not accuse Hart of committing those crimes, Hart was not proven to be associated with those offenses and he denied involvement in the recording. It contends the trial court correctly determined the benefit of admitting the evidence outweighed the potential prejudice from the jury seeing the videotaped statements. The state asserts Hart failed to prove prejudice from the videotaped statements. It argues the cases on which Hart relied to prove the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the videotaped statements easily can be distinguished from the matter at hand. The state contends Hart’s statements were not involuntary because the detective did not promise to be lenient and most of the statements were made before the detective made a comment, which Hart took as a promise. It asserts Hart did not properly preserve for review his claims about his statements because he did not claim coercion until halfway through the trial, which was not the earliest possible opportunity.

SC93153_Hart_brief.pdfSC93153_State brief.pdfSC93153_Hart_reply_brief.pdf


SC90286
State of Missouri v. Lance C. Shockley
Carter County
Challenge to death penalty conviction

Listen to the oral argument: SC90286.mp3
Shockley was represented during arguments by Michael A. Gross, of Sher Corwin LLC in St. Louis, and the state was represented by Daniel N. McPherson of the attorney general's office in Jefferson City.

Lance Shockley was charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of a highway patrol sergeant. Shockley was a suspect in an automobile accident investigation led by the sergeant. At trial, the prosecutor’s questioning of a witness as to the nature of Shockley’s interview regarding the incident elicited evidence regarding Shockley’s character. Shockley objected, and the judge instructed the jury to disregard the character testimony. The prosecution also offered into evidence a photograph of Shockley wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Again, Shockley objected, and the judge instructed the jury to disregard the photograph. Finally, in closing, the prosecutor mentioned the death of a person from the automobile accident in which Shockley was a suspect. Shockley objected, and the judge instructed the jury not to consider past conduct in determining guilt for the present matter. Following a revelation that the jury foreperson had authored a novel involving a murder, Shockley asked the court to declare a mistrial. The trial court overruled the request for mistrial but removed the juror. The jury found Shockley guilty but was unable to agree on a punishment. The trial court imposed the death sentence. Shockley appeals.

Shockley argues the circuit court erred in overruling his motion for a new trial, upholding his conviction and death sentence, and contends the transcript was incomplete and inaccurate for appellate review. He contends the evidence is insufficient to establish the reliability of the transcript due to a proceeding being omitted from the transcript, and that allowing the transcript to stand for appellate review violates his rights to due process and meaningful appellate review. Shockley asserts the jury should have been instructed or a mistrial declared in relation to the prosecutor’s comment regarding Shockley’s failure to testify because it prejudiced him. He argues comments the police sergeant made at trial violated his rights to due process, to a fair trial and to be tried for the charged offense because it made the jury more prone to find him guilty. Shockley contends the prosecuting attorney elicited testimony regarding Shockley’s past and showed photographs of him in jail clothing to damage his character to the jury. He asserts the jury was not instructed that the prosecution had the burden of proof regarding the weight of aggravating and mitigating circumstances for the penalty phase of the trial. Shockley argues the jury was incorrectly instructed that the trial court would assign punishment if the jurors failed to come to an agreement, which deprived him of an opportunity to be sentenced by lay members of the community. He contends the circuit court should not have sentenced him to death when the jury failed to come to an agreement because doing so violated his rights to due process and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Shockley asserts the juror serving as foreman misrepresented his capacity to be fair because of a book he authored, which may have influenced the rest of the jury. Shockley argues his death sentence should be set aside because it is excessive and disproportionate to penalties in similar cases and is not supported by the evidence.

The state responds the circuit court correctly overruled Shockley’s motion for a new trial, upheld his conviction and death sentence, and found that the transcript was sufficiently complete and accurate for appellate review. It argues Shockley failed to show the transcript is incomplete or inaccurate or that he suffered any prejudice from it. The state contends the prosecutor did not comment about Shockley’s failure to testify. It asserts the jury instructions were correct. The state argues the trial court did not err in imposing the death penalty after the jury failed to come to an agreement. It contends as the behavior of the dismissed jury foreperson did not warrant a mistrial. The state asserts Shockley waived his right to submit evidence of juror bias. It argues the death penalty is a proportionate and appropriate punishment for Shockley’s crime.

SC90286_Shockley_brief.pdfSC90286_State_brief.pdfSC90286_Shockley_reply_brief.pdf

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