Case summaries for March 3 - March 9, 2023
Each week, The Missouri Bar provides links to all hand downs published online during the past seven days by the Supreme Court of Missouri and the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Missouri Bar has created headings and summaries for each case. Summaries are not part of the opinions of the Court. They have been prepared for the convenience of the reader and should not be quoted or cited.
Civil contempt judgment not final
Civil contempt judgment enforces an underlying judgment. Contemnor may moot the contempt judgment by compliance with the underlying judgment, but appellant complied only partially with the underlying judgment, so the contempt judgment is not moot. The contempt judgment is subject to appeal, but not until final, and is not final until execution on the fine. Respondent did not execute on the fine, so the contempt judgment is not final, and the Court of Appeals has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Dismissed.
Karla K. Allsberry, Respondent, vs. Judge Patrick S. Flynn, In His Individual Capacity, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110744
Castle Doctrine instruction required
“It is not for the trial court to weigh the evidence presented and make a determination of what facts should be presented to the jury.” An instruction is necessary when evidence supports it. Statutes codifying Missouri’s Castle Doctrine allow deadly force upon a reasonable belief that the use of “any unlawful force” to enter a residence is imminent. Defendant’s testimony alone, even if deemed self-serving, was sufficient; and had corroboration from other witnesses and blood near apartment door. A general self-defense instruction did not cure the resulting prejudice from deprivation of the statutes’ “heightened defense [.]” Conviction reversed.
State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Thomas Clement, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110406
Waiver of counsel was equivocal
Constitutional provisions protected defendant from a warrantless search of defendant’s house, but defendant suffered no prejudice from any error in admitting the resulting evidence, because the State did not use that evidence to show defendant’s guilt. Constitutional provisions and Missouri rules provide that a defendant has the right of self-representation only on “a timely, unequivocal, voluntary, and informed waiver of the right to counsel.” Defendant’s waiver was equivocal, because the waiver was spontaneous, and defendant conditioned the waiver on multiple conditions that defendant never cited as having come to pass.
State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Eugene P. Hampton, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110252
Exclusion of evidence does not require acquittal
The Court of Appeals declines to apply the escape rule for dismissal because the resulting delay was minor and because appellant later appeared for sentencing voluntarily. Possession of a controlled substance means awareness of the substance’s presence and knowledge of its nature. Supporting evidence included an attempt to conceal the substance and paraphernalia for ingestion of the substance. The latter evidence was inadmissible because it resulted from a warrantless search. Abandonment is an exception to the warrant requirement, but abandonment did not occur, because walking away from an item does not constitute abandonment and abandonment cannot occur after the search. But that conclusion does not require acquittal because, on retrial, the State may have other evidence to offer that is admissible. Remanded for new trial.
State of Missouri vs. Lee Allen Haneline
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84964
Sanction against defendant okay
The State’s inclusion of a witness’s name in a felony information is no substitute for defendant’s compliance with discovery. Exclusion of a witness, inexplicably undisclosed until called, was not an abuse of discretion; and the exclusion of cumulative and collateral evidence did not demonstrate any prejudice. The elements of neither statutory sodomy nor incest include the county where the offense happened, so the verdict directors for those offenses no longer require a finding as to the county where the offense occurred, and an allegation as to the county where the offense occurred in the charging instrument does not create a fatal variance. Variance was not the objection at trial and the Court of Appeals declines plain error review. Evidence of other conduct in another county did not violate due process because the parties’ argument made clear which conduct was at issue.
State of Missouri vs. Richard Leon Kerksiek
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD84784
#MeToo evidence okay
On charges of workplace religious discrimination, employer did not show error in admittance of #MeToo evidence: the #MeToo evidence witness and plaintiff had the same duties for the same employer at the same time, the same religion, foreign birth, and similar experience of a hostile work environment tolerated by superiors. Respondent had no duty to file a transcript of such evidence. An award of punitive damages is not a pre-requisite for an award of attorney fees. An award of attorney fees in an action to vindicate human rights does not depend on actual damages or the hours spent on successful claims, but on the importance of the rights at issue and the degree of overall success. Circuit court did not err in applying a multiplier to the lodestar amount.
Amina Alhalabi vs. Missouri Department of Corrections
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85012
Victim’s past violent acts excluded
“Evidence of the victim’s specific acts of violence are particularly relevant to a self-defense claim because the defendant’s knowledge of such acts “is likely to instill fear in the mind of the defendant more quickly and more deeply than knowledge of the victim's general reputation for violence.” Such prior acts must support a reasonable need for self-defense, so the source must be reliable, which did not include defendant’s second-hand accounts. The circuit court did not err in excluding some evidence of victim’s past violent acts while admitting others.
State of Missouri, Respondent, v. Michael Allen Black, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110114
Testimony did not endorse witness credibility
Witness’s comment on an indicator of veracity in child victims’ statements generally did not constitute an endorsement of child witness’s credibility specifically, so no plain error occurred when the circuit court did not intervene to bar such testimony sua sponte. Remanded to conform written judgment to judgment as pronounced in court.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent v. GERALD HENRY YOUNG, Jr., Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37547
No Confrontation Clause violation
The United States’ Confrontation Clause provided that the defendant had the right to confront witnesses against him, which the admittance of hearsay evidence may violate, but such violation was—beyond reasonable doubt—not prejudicial. Reasons for that conclusion include the fact finder—a circuit judge, who is presumed unmoved by improper evidence—and the evidence’s cumulative nature. Victim’s death in the course of any felony supports a conviction for felony murder, including domestic assault, and the State need not negate any possible alternative version of the events.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent v. DERIK CLAYTON OSBORN, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37305
No plain error in delayed certification
Statutes allow circuit court to dismiss a juvenile action regarding appellant, and certify appellant for prosecution under the criminal laws, if appellant was “between the ages of twelve and seventeen at the time of the underlying offense [,]” not when the judgment of certification issues. No manifest injustice appears because “to delay the dire decision to seek certification until after [appellant]’s 18th birthday actually allows the juvenile officer to keep the offender in juvenile rehabilitation and watch his progress for a longer period of time before having to make that important decision about whether or not to seek certification.” Plain error review denied.
IN THE INTEREST OF: K.E.H. STONE COUNTY JUVENILE OFFICE, Plaintiff-Respondent v. K.E.H., Juvenile, Respondent-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37511
Unconstitutional portions of statutes severed
Missouri Constitution provides for charter cities’ “home rule authority [.]” To defend that authority, a charter city had standing to challenge statutes that imposed duties specifically on city officers, as did a city officer. City officer duties are subject to the city charter, as provided by Missouri Constitution, and statutes imposing duties otherwise are unconstitutional. Unconstitutional provisions of any statute are presumptively severable, and the Missouri Supreme Court severs the provisions requiring city officers to serve on a parking commission, and provisions for a parking commission’s powers and duties.
James J. Wilson, et al., Respondents/Cross-Appellants, vs. City of St. Louis, et al., Respondents, and Adam Layne, Appellant/Cross-Respondent. City of St. Louis, Respondent, vs. State of Missouri, Appellant/Cross-Respondent.
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC98907
Wrongful death action for suicide explained
In the petition, plaintiff claimed wrongful death in the treatment of decedent suicide against defendant providers of psychiatry. In their motion, defendants cited provisions of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Services Act, governing the release of persons from detention in, or admission to, mental health facilities; but defendants did not establish that decedent was detained or admitted. On a motion for summary judgment, defendants prevail if they establish facts, without genuine dispute, that negate any element of plaintiff’s claim. The elements of plaintiff’s claim include causation: evidence that defendants’ conduct directly contributed to decedent’s suicide. As to that element, plaintiff raised a genuine dispute, with expert evidence on defendants’ conduct, and need not address other possible causes. Plaintiff also raised a genuine dispute as to whether defendants acted willfully, and the circuit court erred in holding plaintiff to the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence, and in applying the wrong version of the statute. Defendant’s summary judgment reversed.
Stephanie Clark, Appellant, vs. SSM Healthcare St. Louis, d/b/a SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital, Wentzville, Dawn Holemon, M.D., Lee M. Freund, D.O., and St. Charles Emergency Group, LLC., Respondents.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110638
Known third person exception discussed
Owner of real estate generally has no liability in negligence to a victim of crime committed on owner’s property, because crimes are not generally foreseeable, so no duty exists. An exception applies when the owner knows that a dangerous person is on the property, which gives rise to a duty to summon police, warn the victim, or follow their own security policy. Defendant’s security policy was breached by an employee who failed to review surveillance records as instructed when alerted to the presence of someone breaking into cars and stealing in the owner’s parking lot. That conduct rendered danger foreseeable. The person shot a car owner with the car owner’s own pistol. The pistol’s presence in the car was also foreseeable because the Missouri Castle Doctrine extends to cars, but the concealed carry law bars pistols from owner’s building—a hospital, which also had its own signage barring firearms. “We hold [that defendant property owner]’s knowledge of [third person]’s earlier criminal acts is enough in this specific case to give rise to a duty under the Known Third Person exception where the previous criminal acts are entering one or more vehicles on hospital property and stealing prescription medications from a vehicle, both of which involve highly dangerous and invasive criminal activities.” Plaintiff car owner made a submissible case of negligence. The verdict director, basing liability on what defendant actually knew, did not misstate the law.
STEVEN HARNER, Plaintiff-Respondent v. MERCY HOSPITAL JOPLIN, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37266
Late extension, late filing
Circuit court can extend the time to file an amended motion, but only during the time remaining to file the amended motion, and an extension granted after that time expires is void. A motion filed during a void extension is untimely, so circuit court cannot rule on the merits, until it has conducted an inquiry and found that appointed counsel abandoned movant. Judgment on the merits reversed and remanded for inquiry into abandonment.
CHRIS COURTOIS, Movant-Appellant v. STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent-Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37328