Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for failure to protect a child from sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under thirteen as a party to a crime. Contrary to Defendant’s arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that Defendant’s convictions were proper, holding (1) Defendant’s convictions were not multiplicitous and thus did not violate double jeopardy because failure to protect a child from sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under thirteen as a party to a crime are not identical in fact; (2) Defendant failed to overcome the presumption that the legislature intended cumulative punishments for her conduct, given that her conduct consistent of two separate acts; and (3) Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was without merit. View "State v. Steinhardt" on Justia Law

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When a defendant follows a circuit court’s instruction to defer filing a request for substitution of a judge until after counsel is appointed, strict compliance with the twenty-day deadline for filing a request for substitution after remittitur is not warranted. Here Defendant made a timely request for substitution of a judge pursuant to Wis. Stat. 971.20(7) after his cases were remitted to the circuit court following the successful appeal of the denial of his Bangert motion to withdraw his pleas and vacate his conviction. The circuit court instructed Defendant that the filing of a motion for substitution should be deferred until after an attorney was appointed. Seventeen days after an attorney was appointed, Defendant’s trial counsel formalized the substitution request. The circuit court denied the postconviction motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Defendant did not timely invoke his right to substitution of a circuit court judge. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the circuit court to vacate the judgments of conviction and for a new trial, holding that, under the unique circumstances of this case, Defendant’s motion for substitution of judge was timely filed because the circuit court in essence extended the deadline until after Defendant’s trial counsel was appointed. View "State v. Zimbal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions for resisting a law enforcement officer and intentionally pointing a firearm at an officer, arguing that his constitutional right to present a defense was denied by the circuit court’s refusal to instruct the jury on self-defense. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in refusing Defendant’s request for a self-defense instruction under the circumstances of this case because there was sufficient evidence supporting the privilege of self-defense; and (2) the error affected Defendant’s substantial rights and was not harmless error. View "State v. Stietz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Two motorcyclists died when Defendant’s vehicle collided with them on a highway. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of hit and run resulting in death. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to ten years’ imprisonment and ten years’ extended supervision for each count, with the term of imprisonment for the first count to be served consecutive to the term of imprisonment for the second count. Defendant challenged his sentences on appeal, arguing, inter alia, that he was unconstitutionally punished for two counts of hit and run resulting in death even though he only committed a single offense - fleeing from the scene. The Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, holding (1) Defendant committed two offenses when he fled from the scene of the accident, and the legislature authorized punishment for each offense; and (2) the circuit court did not impose an unduly harsh sentence. View "State v. Pal" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with obstructing an officer. The State Public Defender (SPD) appointed a lawyer. Thereafter, three appointed attorneys withdrew in rapid succession. The circuit court determined that Defendant had forfeited his right to appointed counsel, and the SPD denied Defendant’s request for a fourth attorney. Defendant represented himself at the one-day trial, and the jury found him guilty of obstruction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) right-to-counsel warnings in forfeiture cases and the procedures suggested by the dissent in State v. Cummings are strongly recommended but not required; and (2) after applying the standard enunciated in State v. Cummings to this case, it is clear that Defendant forfeited his constitutional right to counsel by engaging in voluntary and deliberate conduct that frustrated the progression of his case and interfered with the proper administration of justice. View "State v. Suriano" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the crime of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated - fourth offense. Defendant requested a new trial, arguing that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to the prosecutor’s statements that Defendant had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test following his arrest for drunk driving. Specifically, Defendant claimed that he possessed a constitutional right to refuse to take a warrantless breathalyzer test such that the prosecutor was not permitted to seek an inference of guilt from the refusal, and therefore, his trial attorney should have objected to the prosecutor’s statements. The circuit court denied the postconviction motion with a hearing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) upon Defendant’s arrest for drunk driving he had no constitutional or statutory right to refuse to take the breathalyzer test; (2) therefore, the State could comment at trial on Defendant's improper refusal to take the test; and (3) accordingly, Defendant’s attorney did not render ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to argue contrary to controlling precedent. View "State v. Lemberger" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with burglary, possession of burglarious tools, criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass, each as a repeater. Defendant filed a motion to suppress seeking to prevent the prosecution from using at trial Defendant’s statement, “they caught me,” that Defendant made to detectives at the county jail. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that there was no violation of Defendant’s right to be free from self-incrimination. Thereafter, a jury found Defendant guilty on all four counts. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the question that preceded Defendant’s statement did not constitute interrogation, and therefore, Miranda warnings were not required. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State did not compel Defendant to be a witness against himself. View "State v. Harris" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of operating while intoxicated and operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration, both as third offenses. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress all evidence obtained during a traffic stop, claiming that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion. Before the court could hold a suppression hearing, the officer died. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the use of the deceased officer’s recorded statements at the suppression hearing did not violate Defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause or the Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Confrontation Clause protects a defendant’s right to confrontation at trial but not at suppression hearings; and (2) in this case, the admission of the deceased officer’s recorded statements during the suppression hearing did not deprive Defendant of due process. View "State v. Zamzow" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that testimony given by Catherine Gainey, the social worker who conducted a cognitive graphic interview with the child victim, violated the Haseltine rule and that Defendant’s counsel was ineffective for failing to object. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Gainey’s testimony did not violate the Haseltine rule and was therefore admissible, and accordingly, Defendant’s counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to Gainey’s testimony; and (2) Defendant’s remaining claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were without merit. View "State v. Maday" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Defendant was sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction and order denying postconviction relief. Defendant appealed, arguing that he was entitled to a new trial due to errors pertaining to jury selection and the jury he received. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that each of Defendant’s claims on appeal failed, and therefore, Defendant was not entitled to a new trial. View "State v. Lepsch" on Justia Law