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Case Summary for January 18, 2017


Attached to the following docketed cases are electronic copies of briefs filed by the parties. These electronic briefs have been converted to PDF to accommodate various word processors. If you do not already have Acrobat reader, which is necessary to open the PDFs, you may obtain it free at the Adobe website. (A set of free tools that allow visually disabled users to read documents in Adobe PDF format is available from These briefs do not reflect any opinion of the Court about the appropriateness of the format of the briefs or the merits of the case, nor are they official court records. Copies of all briefs filed with the Court are available at the Supreme Court Building in the court en banc division.

The attachments below may not reflect all briefs filed with the Court, the complete filing or the format of the original filing. Appendices and other attachments generally will not be posted here. To see what documents have been filed in a particular case, visit


9:30 a.m. Wednesday, January 18, 2017

State ex rel. Anthony W. Bowman v. The Honorable Timothy W. Inman
St. Francois County
Challenge to order requiring payment of restitution
Listen to the oral argument: SC95783.mp3SC95783.mp3
Bowman was represented during arguments by Sarah Jackson of the public defender’s office in Farmington; the state was represented by Ariel B. Epulle of the St. Francois County prosecutor’s office in Farmington.

A woman’s home was burglarized, and the state charged Anthony Bowman with a felony in connection with receiving property that another individual stole from the woman’s home. Bowman pleaded guilty in July 2015 to one count of misdemeanor receiving stolen property. The circuit court suspended imposition of sentence, placed Bowman on probation for two years, and ordered Bowman to pay court costs and fines according to a payment plan. In November 2015, the state moved to revoke Bowman’s probation, alleging he had failed to pay restitution. The state later moved to amend the terms of Bowman’s probation to require him to pay certain restitution. In April 2016, a restitution hearing was held at which the woman whose home was burglarized testified the only items returned to her had been recovered from Bowman, and she had paid $4,064 for the items still missing. She testified it was her understanding that Bowman would pay restitution as part of his plea bargain in exchange for the state reducing his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. The circuit court granted the state’s motion and ordered Bowman to pay the woman $4,064 in restitution in monthly payments of $240 per month beginning in May 2016. Bowman seeks this Court’s writ prohibiting the circuit court from requiring him to pay restitution.

This proceeding presents one question for this Court – whether the circuit court abused its discretion in requiring Bowman to pay restitution. A related issue involves whether restitution was part of the plea agreement, as the woman recollected in her testimony, or whether the woman’s remaining losses are beyond the scope of the offense to which Bowman pleaded guilty.


State ex rel. Christine Delf v. The Honorable Darrell E. Missey
Jefferson County
Effect of binding plea agreement on circuit court
Listen to the oral argument: SC95800.mp3SC95800.mp3
Delf was represented during arguments by Scott Rose of Rose Legal Services LLC in St. Louis; the state was represented by Catherine M. Robertson of the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office in Hillsboro.

The state charged Christine Delf with one count of felony forgery. Following discovery and extensive plea negotiations, the parties entered into a binding plea agreement pursuant to Rule 24.02(d)(1)(c). Delf agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a suspended execution of a seven-year prison sentence, being placed on probation for five years, and being required to pay $5,000 in restitution plus an administrative fee before her probation expired. The parties filed the plea agreement with the circuit court in February 2016. The court accepted the agreement following a plea hearing the next month and deferred sentencing until after a sentencing assessment report was filed. The report revealed Delf had prior convictions and terms of probation for fraudulent use of a credit device and forgery, including one involving an elderly home health services client. At the June 2016 sentencing hearing, over Delf’s objection, the circuit court sentenced Delf to 120 days of “shock time” in the county jail and prohibited her from working in the home health industry. She then filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement or, alternatively, to withdraw her guilty plea and set the case for trial. The circuit court overruled her motion. Delf now seeks this Court’s writ of mandamus requiring the circuit court either to accept the plea agreement without modification or to allow her to withdraw her plea and stand trial.

This case presents one primary question for this Court – whether the circuit court erred in sentencing Delf. Related issues include whether a defendant has a constitutional right to enforce a binding plea agreement or stand trial; whether Rule 24.02(d) limits a circuit court’s action to either accepting a binding plea agreement without modification to the recommended sentence wor rejecting the agreement and allowing the defendant to withdraw the guilty plea; and whether the jail time and employment restriction were permissible conditions of probation and not part of the sentence.

State ex rel. Joshua D. Hawley v. The Honorable Philip Heagney, Circuit Judge, St. Louis City, and Thomas L. Kloeppinger, Circuit Clerk, St. Louis City
St. Louis city
Validity of pleas of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect
Listen to the oral argument: SC95906.mp3SC95906.mp3
The state was represented during arguments by Gregory M. Goodwin of the attorney general’s office in Jefferson City; Fisher was represented by Margaret M. Johnston of the public defender’s office in Columbia.

George Fisher asked the St. Louis circuit court for relief from two different convictions, one in Jackson County and one in Audrain County. As to the Jackson County case, Fisher attempted to set his girlfriend’s father’s porch on fire in July 2005. He ultimately pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. In subsequent postconviction proceedings, the state agreed the circuit court should grant postconviction relief and allow Fisher to plead not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect (NGRI). As to the Audrain County case, Fisher was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The circuit court ultimately entered its judgment finding that Fisher was pleading NGRI and committing him to the department of mental health. Although no copy of the NGRI notice appears in the circuit court’s file, a copy appears in the public defender’s electronic file, and a copy signed by defense counsel is in the prosecutor’s file. In March 2014, while receiving treatment for his mental illnesses at the department of mental health, Fisher escaped. He was recaptured in December 2014. Fisher subsequently asked the St. Louis circuit court for a writ of habeas corpus (release from confinement). During a November 2015 hearing, Fisher claimed his two NGRI pleas and the treatment he was receiving from the department of mental health violated his Eighth Amendment rights. He argued he was not suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of either his Jackson County or Audrain County offense and had wanted to plead guilty to the Audrain County offense. The circuit court ultimately granted habeas relief as to Fisher’s claims about the NGRI pleas but not the mental health treatment. The circuit court concluded the Jackson County NGRI notice was deficient because Fisher did not sign it. The court concluded the Audrain County NGRI notice was not filed or, if it was, it was deficient because Fisher did not sign it and it did not contain language that Fisher had no other defenses. The state seeks this Court’s relief.

This case presents two primary questions for this Court – whether the state is entitled to have either all or part of the record before the St. Louis circuit court quashed. Related issues include whether any defect in the NGRI notices is due to Fisher and not the state; whether the law requires Fisher to sign the notices; and whether sufficient evidence supports the circuit court’s finding that no notice was filed in Audrain County. Other related issues involve the effect of vacating Fisher’s NGRI plea in Jackson County – whether it reinstates his conviction or returns him to pretrial status – and the legal effect of his escape.

SC95906_State_brief.pdfSC95906_State_brief.pdf (Fisher's brief was filed under seal and is not available online.)

Robert L. Johnson v. Auto Handling Corporation and Cottrell Inc.
St. Louis County
Challenges to evidentiary rulings, jury instructions and verdicts in personal injury suit
Listen to the oral argument: SC95777.mp3SC95777.mp3
Johnson was represented during arguments by Michael T. Blotevogel of Armbruster, Dripps, Winterscheidt & Blotevogel in Maryville, Illinois. Auto Handling was represented by Paul L. Wickens of Foland, Wickens, Eisfelder, Roper & Hofer PC in Kansas City; Cottrell was represented by William Ray Price Jr. of Armstrong Teasdale LLP in St. Louis.

While working as an automobile hauler in July 2007, Robert Johnson was loading and unloading passenger vehicles onto a Cottrell Inc. automobile transport trailer. While he was tightening a chain, there was a sudden release of tension, causing him to fall to the ground and sustain injuries. He determined that a steel part welded to the trailer – called an “idler” – had broken. In 2010, Johnson sued Auto Handling Corporation, the company that performed maintenance on the Cottrell transport trailer, as well as Cottrell, which designed, manufactured and sold the trailer. Johnson alleged the Cottrell trailer was defective and not reasonably safe because it relied on a manual chain and ratchet tie-down system that required users to exert excessive force that unreasonably endangered users both directly, from the excessive force, and indirectly, from sudden releases when system components failed. Johnson’s counts against Cottrell included one involving strict liability, one involving negligence and one seeking punitive damages. His counts against Auto Handlers included one involving negligence and one seeking punitive damages. During the trial, the circuit court precluded Johnson from offering evidence of other accidents involving the chain and ratchet system that did not involve a broken idler. At the close of evidence, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Auto Handler, finding Johnson had not proven his claims against that company. The jury rendered its verdict regarding Johnson’s claims against Cottrell. As to his strict products liability claim involving a design defect, the jury found in favor of Cottrell. As to his negligence claim, the jury assessed 55 percent of the fault to Cottrell and 45 percent to Johnson. As to Johnson’s strict liability claim involving failure to warn, the jury assessed 51 percent of the fault to Johnson and 49 percent to Cottrell. The jury found the total amount of Johnson’s actual damages – disregarding his share of the fault – to be approximately $2.09 million. The jury determined that Cottrell was not liable for punitive damages. The circuit court entered its judgment in accordance with the verdict, awarding Johnson approximately $1.15 million, the verdict on which Johnson had the greatest recovery (for his negligence claim). Johnson and Cottrell both appeal.

Johnson’s appeal presents two primary questions for the Court. One involves whether Johnson produced sufficient evidence to make a submissible case that Auto Handling was negligent in failing to discover the defect with the idler, failing to repair the idler and failing to warn Johnson about the dangers caused by the Cottrell chain and ratchet system. The other question involves whether the circuit court erred in categorically excluding evidence of accidents involving the chain and ratchet system that did not involve failure of the system’s idler.

Cottrell’s appeal presents several questions for the Court. One involves whether the jury, in finding Cottrell was not liable for strict products liability for defect design, necessarily found the product was not defective and, if so, whether this precluded the jury’s verdict that Cottrell was negligent in designing the same product. Another question involves whether the evidence showed Johnson failed to read the warning on the product and, if so, whether this precluded the jury’s verdict that Cottrell was strictly liable for failure to warn. Additional questions involve whether the circuit court used an improper verdict-directing instruction regarding negligence that misstated the law regarding negligent design defects or failed to specify the conduct or time frame for which the jury could find Cottrell liable. A further question involves whether the circuit court should have granted either a directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict for negligent product liability and failure to warn on the basis that a product only is defective at the time it enters the stream of commerce and not whether it was altered later through repair. Related issues involve whether Cottrell has waived any of its objections and the extent to which the parties are bound by the jury’s damages award.


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