Case summaries for Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 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.
Fair facts are circuit court’s facts
Rule of appellate practice requires appellant’s brief to include “a fair and concise statement” of relevant facts, meaning the “court’s adverse fact-finding and credibility determinations.” Departure from that requirement damages appellant’s credibility. Points relied on must follow the rule’s template, which requires appellant to cite one challenged ruling, not the judgment, and choose one of the limited theories of error. The evidentiary challenges—not supported by evidence and against the weight of the evidence—are separate theories. Including both in one point renders the point multifarious. When deviations from appellate rules materially impede appellate review, by requiring the appellate court to speculate on appellant’s theory, the appellate court must dismiss the appeal to avoid becoming appellant’s advocate.
ROB SPRUEILL, n/k/a ROBERT DEAN HOLLOWAY, and FIVE STAR PRODUCTIONS, LLC, Petitioners-Appellants v. DAVID LOTT and MISSOURI HOLDING GROUP, INC., Respondents-Respondents
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37355
No plain error in child victim video
Constitutional provisions protect a criminal defendant’s right to confront the State’s witnesses. That means, at least, an opportunity for effective cross-examination. Such cross-examination may occur outside the jury’s presence, if it comes before the jury by video deposition, and the declarant is present at trial. Statute provides such procedure for child victims. Compliance with that statute, including the child victim’s presence at trial, renders a witness’s out-of-court statements admissible. Defendant waived error when defendant waived cross-examination.
State of Missouri vs. Lonnie Allen Ogle
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85498
State may appeal some final criminal judgments
Statute and rule provide that the State may appeal any ruling, unless jeopardy has attached, but—with specific exceptions—that statute requires a final judgment. A final judgment is one that disposes of all issues as to all parties. The circuit court dismissed an indictment as to three counts, but not as to another four counts, so that ruling did not constitute a final judgment. In limited circumstances, the Missouri Supreme Court may treat an improperly filed appeal as a writ application, but those limited circumstances are absent. Appeal dismissed.
State v. Harris
Supreme Court of Missouri - SC99977
Defendant’s evidence made state’s evidence relevant
The State’s opening statement mentioned that there was no booking photo because of defendant’s unruly resistance, to which defendant opted not to object, and offered evidence instead. That evidence made the State’s evidence on the booking relevant, logically and legally. The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in overruling the objection. Also, that ruling resulted in no prejudice because the evidence was cumulative.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent vs. JANTZEN BLAKE STRICKLAND, Defendant-Appellant
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37531
Parents’ efforts thwarted
Statutes allowing termination of parental rights and adoption of a child, without parent’s consent for abandonment or neglect, focus on the six months after the filing of a petition, but other times are also relevant. Parent showed treatment for substance issues and attempts to contact and support child in accordance with a consent judgment and beyond, thwarted by grandparents, and an appellate court will not re-weigh that evidence. Grandparents showed no likelihood of future harm to child. Because Grandparents showed no statutory ground for termination, no analysis of the child’s best interest was necessary. Judgment denying termination of parental rights affirmed, and adoption moot.
In the Interest of: K.J.L.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District - ED110726
Appellant’s evidence weighed in circuit court, not on appeal
“Every child is entitled to a permanent and stable home.” A judgment terminating parental rights carries a presumption of validity, and appellant has the burden to show otherwise. Termination was in the children’s best interest on six of seven statutory factors, the circuit court concluded, on findings of fact unchallenged on appeal. On appeal, evidence to the contrary is irrelevant. As to whether the circuit court must inquire of children’s preferences, appellant cites no authority, so Court of Appeals declines plain error review.
IN THE INTEREST OF N.D.P.H. and Z.L.P.H, Minor children under seventeen years of age, K.E.H., Respondent-Appellant v. GREENE COUNTY JUVENILE OFFICER, Petitioner-Respondent
Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD37993 and SD37994
Findings of fact on admissions necessary
Plain error is an open and obvious error that results in a miscarriage of justice or a manifest injustice. Due process applies the criminal law protections to juvenile proceedings, including whether admissions to allegations have a factual basis, and whether an admission is voluntary and knowing. Those issues require findings of fact, but the circuit court made none. When a circuit court ruling deviates from statutory procedure, and causes a constitutional error, the ruling is subject to review for plain error. “[T]he injustice must be so egregious as to weaken the very foundation of the process and seriously undermine confidence in the outcome of the case.” Judgment reversed and remanded.
In the Interest of: A.L.H. vs. Juvenile Officer
Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District - WD85774