Published Opinions

 

 

7/15/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-15T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Jairo Esdel, appealed from a Superior Court judgment of conviction on the following counts: second-degree murder; discharging a firearm when committing a crime of violence; discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that created a substantial risk of death or serious injury; and carrying a pistol or revolver without a license or permit. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial justice erred on four occasions: (1) when he refused to give the lesser included offense instruction on voluntary manslaughter; (2) when he excluded the testimony from the defendant’s grandfather regarding a threat that the decedent made about the defendant weeks before the shooting; (3) when he excluded the testimony of another witness and the defendant’s grandfather, both of whom witnessed an altercation that occurred between the decedent and the defendant prior to the shooting at issue; and (4) when he determined that a social media post, a video in which the decedent was depicted brandishing a firearm, was inadmissible. The Supreme Court determined that there was sufficient evidence from which a jury could have found the defendant guilty of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter and that the trial justice committed reversible error in refusing to so instruct. The Court also declared that the trial justice abused his discretion in precluding testimony of the defendant’s grandfather about a threat to kill the defendant that the decedent made weeks prior to the shooting. The Court determined that a reasonable jury could conclude that this testimony was relevant to whether the defendant’s fear of injury was reasonable, thereby supporting the defendant’s claim of self-defense. Next, the Supreme Court concluded that the exclusion of witness testimony concerning a prior altercation was harmless error. Finally, the Supreme Court agreed with the trial justice’s decision concerning the authentication of the WhatsApp video and held that the defendant is entitled to a new hearing in Superior Court and determined that the defendant should have the opportunity to authenticate the video on remand. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Superior Court. State v. Jairo Esdel2022-0304-C.A.
7/12/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-12T04:00:00ZThis case came before the Supreme Court on appeal by the defendant, Milton Aponte (defendant), from a judgment of conviction entered in the Superior Court following jury verdicts of guilty on (1) one count of first-degree child molestation; (2) three counts of second-degree child molestation; and (3) one count of simple assault and battery. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial justice erred in admitting the complaining witness’s out-of-court written statements, which were offered for the truth of the matter asserted and did not fall within an exception to the rule against hearsay. The defendant argued that the trial justice erred in admitting the complaining witness’s out-of-court written statement to her mother as nonhearsay because he made no claim of recent fabrication and that the trial justice also erred in admitting the complaining witness’s handwritten statement to the police as an excited utterance. The defendant further argued that the trial justice erred in excluding relevant video evidence of the complaining witness’s demeanor while making her statement at the police station. The Supreme Court held that (1) the trial justice abused his discretion by admitting the complaining witness’s letter to her mother because the defendant made no claim of recent fabrication and the statement did not qualify as a prior consistent statement under Rule 801(d)(1)(B) of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence; and (2) the trial justice abused his discretion by admitting the complaining witness’s handwritten statement to police as an excited utterance under Rule 803(2) because the state did not meet its burden of showing that the declarant was still laboring over the stress of the alleged sexual assault when she made the statement to the police. With respect to the defendant’s argument that the trial justice erred by excluding relevant video evidence of the complaining witness’s demeanor when making her statement to the police, the Court reasoned that it was not an abuse of discretion to exclude the video as the evidence was cumulative and the jury could hear from the witness herself as she was subject to cross-examination. The Court further held that the erroneous admission of the complaining witness’s prior statements was not harmless because, aside from the complaining witness’s testimony, the record was devoid of other evidence of the defendant’s guilt, making the complaining witness’s credibility central to the prosecution’s case. Accordingly, the Court vacated the judgment of conviction and remanded the case to the Superior Court for a new trial. State v. Milton Aponte2023-0049-C.A.
7/12/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-12T04:00:00ZIn these consolidated appeals arising from a landlord-tenant eviction action, the defendant, Jo-Ann Albanese, appealed pro se from (1) a Superior Court judgment awarding possession and damages to the plaintiff, Red Gate Motel, Inc., (2) the denial of her motion to vacate that judgment, and (3) the denial of her motion to reconsider the motion to vacate. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial justice abused her discretion by not “afford[ing] her a full opportunity to be heard” on her retaliatory defenses at trial, by failing to acknowledge Ms. Albanese’s reasons for her purported excusable neglect and subsequently denying her motions to vacate and reconsider, and by relying on incomplete or inadequate information in denying her motions. The Supreme Court concluded that, based on the lack of a complete transcript from the lower-court proceedings and the absence of any reversible error in the portions of the transcript that were provided, the trial justice neither misconceived nor overlooked material evidence, nor did she abuse her discretion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and orders of the Superior Court. Red Gate Motel, Inc. v. Jo-Ann Albanese2022-0333-Appeal. and 2022-0303-Appeal.
7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Jason Ortiz, appealed from a judgment of conviction and commitment following a bench trial held in the Superior Court for Providence County. The defendant was charged with one count of carrying a pistol without a license, one count of domestic assault, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of disorderly conduct; however, he was convicted only of the charge of carrying a pistol without a license. On appeal, the defendant argued that G.L. 1956 § 11 47 8(a) violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court held that the defendant did not have the requisite standing to challenge the constitutionality of the licensing statutes, G.L. 1956 § 11 47 11 and G.L. 1956 § 11 47 18, which are expressly referenced in § 11 47 8(a). Moreover, because the defendant would not have qualified for a license had he applied and because it is undisputed that the defendant did not have a license to possess a firearm, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.State v. Jason Ortiz2022-0015-C.A.
7/3/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-03T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Norman Carpenter, appealed from an interlocutory order of the Family Court that authorized a court-appointed commissioner to sell portions of marital property that he owned with his wife, the plaintiff Shelley Carpenter. On appeal, Mr. Carpenter argued that the trial justice erred in issuing the November 15, 2022 order because the trial justice declined to direct the commissioner to consider—or hold an evidentiary hearing related to—Mr. Carpenter’s desire to purchase one of the property’s four parcels subject to that order. The Supreme Court determined that, while Mr. Carpenter validly appealed the November 15, 2022 order, he waived his substantive challenge to that order, and the Supreme Court therefore affirmed the order of the Family Court. Shelley Carpenter v. Norman Carpenter 2023-0047-Appeal.
7/3/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-03T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Hellenic Society Paideia – Rhode Island Chapter, challenged a judgment of the Superior Court that confirmed an arbitration award in favor of the plaintiffs, the University of Rhode Island Board of Trustees and the University of Rhode Island. The defendant argued that the trial justice erred in affirming the arbitration award based on the arbitrator’s manifest disregard of the law in his arbitration decision and his issuance of an indefinite remedy. The Supreme Court determined that the defendant failed to demonstrate that the arbitrator acted in a manner that would permit the Court to disturb his award and therefore affirmed the Superior Court judgment. The University of Rhode Island Board of Trustees et al. v. Hellenic Society Paideia-Rhode Island Chapter2023-0148-Appeal.
7/2/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-02T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Dari Garcia, appealed from a May 3, 2018 judgment of conviction and commitment following a jury trial held in the Superior Court for Providence County. The defendant was charged with fifteen counts pertaining to several events that took place in a particular house in North Providence, Rhode Island, on August 17, 2014 . On appeal, the defendant presented nine grounds for reversal of his conviction . He contended that: (1) the trial justice erred in allowing the state to strike a particular prospective juror, in alleged violation of the principles established in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986); (2) the trial justice impermissibly allowed into evidence certain testimony of a law enforcement officer; (3) the trial justice erred in limiting the cross-examination of a witness and excluding the evidence of her drug use; (4) the trial justice erred in allowing two brothers to testify at trial whom she later held in contempt of court, and in holding a third brother in contempt of court in the presence of the jury; (5) the trial justice “impermissibly aided the prosecution;” (6) Count Two and Count Five of the indictment merged for double jeopardy purposes; (7) the defendant’s convictions on Count Six and Count Seven violated the double jeopardy clause; (8) certain statements made by the prosecutor in her closing argument were unduly prejudicial; and (9) the trial justice’s sentencing of defendant resulted in a “de facto life without parole sentence without the necessary statutory protections .” The Supreme Court concluded that the trial justice did not err in overruling the defendant’s Batson objection to the state’s peremptory challenge . The Court also held that the trial justice’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress was not clearly erroneous and that Count Six and Count Seven did not merge pursuant to double jeopardy principles . The Court further determined that the following issues were waived on appeal: (1) the limiting of the cross-examination of a witness and excluding the evidence of her drug use; (2) the alleged error in the trial justice’s allowing two brothers to testify at trial and subsequently holding them in contempt of court and in holding a third brother in contempt of court in the presence of the jury; (3) the trial justice’s alleged impermissible aiding of the prosecution; (4) the double jeopardy issue pertaining to Count Two and Count Five; (5) the allegedly prejudicial nature of two of the prosecutor’s statements during her closing argument; and (6) the trial justice’s imposition of a “de facto life without parole sentence .” After carefully considering each of the defendant’s nine grounds for reversal, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court.State v. Dari Garcia2019-0205-C.A.
7/2/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-02T04:00:00ZThe Supreme Court granted two identical petitions filed by the defendant, Edward Mather, for a writ of certiorari. Mr. Mather sought review of interlocutory orders of the Superior Court that denied his petitions to discharge from detention orders of commitment pursuant to G.L. 1956 chapter 5.3 of title 40.1, filed in two underlying criminal matters. The Supreme Court determined that the trial justice erroneously denied Mr. Mather’s petitions to discharge him from detention orders of commitment, quashed the orders of the Superior Court, and remanded the record for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.State v. Edward Mather2021-0109-M.P. and 2021-0110-M.P.
7/2/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-02T04:00:00ZThese postconviction-relief applications concern the interpretation of G.L. 1956 § 13-8-13(e), which was enacted in 2021 and provides in part that “[a]ny person sentenced for any offense committed prior to his or her twenty-second birthday, other than a person serving life without parole, shall be eligible for parole review and a parole permit may be issued after the person has served no fewer than twenty (20) years’ imprisonment unless the person is entitled to earlier parole eligibility pursuant to any other provisions of law.” A justice of the Superior Court determined that § 13-8-13(e) required the aggregation of the offenders’ pending sentences, including consecutive sentences; and further concluded that, as interpreted, § 13 8 13(e) did not infringe upon the judicial power by providing for an earlier parole eligibility date. The trial justice granted each applicants’ motion for summary disposition and/or summary judgment, and ordered each applicant immediately paroled from the Adult Correctional Institutions. This Court granted the state’s petitions for a writ of certiorari in each case and consolidated the matters. The Supreme Court held that § 13-8-13(e) mandates the aggregation of a qualified offender’s sentences, including consecutive sentences, and the Court further concluded that § 13-8-13(e), as interpreted, does not violate the separation of-powers doctrine. The Court determined, however, that although § 13 8-13(e) applies to each applicant, the trial justice erred when he ordered the applicants immediately paroled to the community. Accordingly, this Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgments of the Superior Court.Joao Neves v. State of Rhode Island; Keith Nunes v. State of Rhode Island; Pablo Ortega v. State of Rhode Island; Mario Monteiro v. State of Rhode Island2022-0092-M.P. and 2022-0093-M.P. and 2022-0094-M.P. and 2023-0167-M.P.
7/1/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-01T04:00:00ZThe defendant, Lydia Alicea (defendant or Alicea), pled nolo contendere to the charges brought against her by way of information pursuant to violating G.L. 1956 § 11-41-4. Upon the defendant’s plea, the Superior Court imposed a two-year deferred sentence and ordered $1,800 in restitution. The defendant entered into a deferred-sentence agreement with the Office of the Attorney General, thereby agreeing to the terms of her sentence set forth by the Superior Court. The defendant failed to satisfy her restitution obligation of $1,800 by the expiration of her deferred-sentence agreement. Accordingly, a magistrate of the Superior Court declared defendant a violator of her deferred-sentence agreement, imposed a sentence of three years of probation, and ordered that defendant pay $36.15 in monthly installments toward the outstanding restitution amount. The defendant filed a timely notice of appeal of the magistrate’s decision to a justice of the Superior Court. On November 18, 2022, the trial justice issued a written decision denying the appeal; the stay was vacated, and restitution payments were ordered to resume on December 1, 2022. Thereafter, this timely appeal ensued. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial justice erred in affirming the magistrate’s decision—declaring defendant a violator of the deferred-sentence agreement—because the Superior Court did not conduct an adequate hearing concerning whether she had the ability to pay the restitution in accordance with G.L. 1956 § 12-19-19. The defendant also argued that the trial justice improperly applied State v. Regan, 273 A.3d 116 (R.I. 2022). After examining the record and the parties’ arguments, the Supreme Court concluded that defendant was not provided a full evidentiary hearing to determine her ability to pay the court-ordered restitution and vacated the judgment of the Superior Court declaring Alicea to be a violator of her deferred-sentence agreement.State v. Lydia Alicea2023-0043-C.A.