Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Circuit courts possess statutory competency to proceed in criminal matters when the adult defendant was charged for conduct he committed before his tenth birthday. Defendant was charged with four counts of criminal misconduct. Defendant was nine through twelve years old during the time period charged in count one and fourteen through eighteen years old during the time period charged in counts two through four. Defendant was nineteen years old when the charges were filed. The jury acquitted Defendant of count one but convicted him of counts two through four. Defendant brought a postconviction motion alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to bring a pre-trial motion to dismiss count one. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the defendant’s age at the time he is charged, not his age at the time the underlying conduct occurred, determines whether charges are properly brought as a criminal matter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court possessed statutory competency to hear Defendant’s case as a criminal matter because he was an adult at the time he was charged; and (2) therefore, Defendant’s counsel did not perform deficiently by failing to raise a meritless motion. View "State v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The intent-effects test is the proper test used to determine whether a sanction is “punishment” such that due process requires a defendant be informed of it before entering a plea of guilty. In the instant case, the circuit court failed to inform Defendant that his plea of guilty to second-degree sexual assault would subject him to lifetime GPS tracking pursuant to Wis. Stat. 301.48. The circuit court concluded that lifetime GPS tracking is not punishment and therefore denied Defendant’s motion to withdraw his plea. Applying the intent-effects test to the facts of this case, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither the intent nor effect of lifetime GPS tracking is punitive. View "State v. Muldrow" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court ruling that Defendant’s trial counsel’s failure to object to an exhibit sent to the jury during deliberations constituted ineffective assistance with respect to only one of the six counts for which Defendant was convicted. On appeal, Defendant argued that all six of his convictions should be vacated due to his trial counsel’s deficient performance and that the State forfeited its right to argue the prejudice prong of the ineffective assistance test at his Machner hearing. In affirming, the Supreme Court held (1) circuit courts reviewing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel following multiple-count trials may conclude that deficient performance prejudiced only one of the multiple convictions; and (2) the State did not forfeit its right to challenge the prejudice prong of the ineffective assistance test when it did not petition the Supreme Court for review following the court of appeals’ original decision remanding for a Machner hearing. View "State v. Sholar" on Justia Law

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At issue was the proper interpretation of Wis. Stat. 980.09(2), as amended by 2013 Wis. Act 84, which establishes the discharge procedure for a person civilly committed as a sexually violent person pursuant to Wis. Stat. ch. 980. David Hager, Jr. and Howard Carter both filed petitions for discharge from commitment as sexually violent persons. Both petitions were denied. The court of appeals reversed in Hager but affirmed in Carter. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals as to Hager and affirmed as to Carter, holding (1) under Wis. Stat. 980.09(2), circuit courts are to carefully examine, but not weigh, those portions of the record they deem helpful to their consideration of a petition for discharge, which may include facts both favorable and unfavorable to the petitioner; (2) section 980.09(2) does not violate the constitutional right to due process of law as guaranteed by the United States and Wisconsin Constitutions; and (3) Carter’s counsel was not ineffective for failing to challenge retroactive application of Act 84 to Carter. View "State v. Hager" on Justia Law

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In this commitment-extension proceeding the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s order denying J.M.’s motion for post-disposition relief in which J.M. claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court answered (1) J.M. had a statutory right to effective assistance of counsel in his Chapter 41 commitment-extension hearing, and the Strickland standard is the correct standard for evaluating a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in a commitment-extension hearing; (2) J.M. did not show that a reasonable probability existed that the result of the proceeding would have been different had his trial counsel’s performance not been allegedly deficient regarding J.M.’s appearance in prison garb; and (3) J.M. did not establish that he was entitled to a new trial on the ground that his wearing of prison garb during the trial so distracted the jury that justice was miscarried, and the circuit court’s conflicting jury instructions did not entitle J.M. to a new trial in the interest of justice. View "Winnebago County v. J.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s decision rejecting Defendant’s motion to vacate his judgments of conviction and requesting a new trial, holding that Defendant was not entitled to a new trial. In his motion, Defendant argued that his first trial, which resulted in convictions for the sexual assault of two victims, was unfair because the State shifted the burden of proof and distorted the jury’s credibility determinations and that the jury based its verdict in part on inadmissible evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion, holding (1) the State’s trial commentary was not improper; and (2) there was no reasonable probability that redacting the challenged evidence would have changed the result of the trial. View "State v. Bell" on Justia Law

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At issue was at which point in time Defendant was considered “in custody” for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements made to law enforcement officers, concluding that Defendant was not in custody at the time the statements were made. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of the totality of the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s confession did not transform his status to that of “in custody.” Rather, Defendant was not in custody until detectives took his cell phone, approximately ten minutes after his confession, and instructed him to remain in the interview room. Because Defendant was not in custody until this point, which was after his alleged request for counsel, his Fifth Amendment right to counsel did not attach. View "State v. Bartelt" on Justia Law

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At issue was at which point in time Defendant was considered “in custody” for purposes of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating statements made to law enforcement officers, concluding that Defendant was not in custody at the time the statements were made. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of the totality of the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s confession did not transform his status to that of “in custody.” Rather, Defendant was not in custody until detectives took his cell phone, approximately ten minutes after his confession, and instructed him to remain in the interview room. Because Defendant was not in custody until this point, which was after his alleged request for counsel, his Fifth Amendment right to counsel did not attach. View "State v. Bartelt" on Justia Law

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When an officer conducts a valid traffic stop, part of that stop includes checking identification, even where the reasonable suspicion forming the basis for the stop has dissipated. The Supreme Court in this case affirmed Defendant’s conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence, seventh offense, holding (1) asking for a driver’s license does not impermissibly extend a stop because it is part of the original mission of the traffic stop; and (2) the circuit court correctly denied Defendant’s suppression motion because Defendant’s stop was reasonably executed, and no Fourth Amendment violation occurred. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s denial of Appellant’s postconviction motion asserting that defense counsel at trial had been ineffective. Appellant was convicted of five crimes relating to her abuse and neglect of her son. Appellant filed a postconviction motion, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support her convictions and that defense counsel at trial had been ineffective. The circuit court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that trial counsel’s performance was not deficient. View "State v. Breitzman" on Justia Law