Opinions, Decisions, and Orders

 

 

State v. Jairo Esdel7/15/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-15T04:00:00Z2022-0304-C.A.The 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. Milton Aponte7/12/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-12T04:00:00Z2023-0049-C.A.This 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.
Red Gate Motel, Inc. v. Jo-Ann Albanese7/12/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-12T04:00:00Z2022-0333-Appeal. and 2022-0303-Appeal. In 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.
In re Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court (Appointments)7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00Z2024-07
In re Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee (Appointments)7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00Z2024-08
In re Commission on Judicial Tenure and Discipline (Reappointments)7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00Z2024-09
7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00Z
State v. Jason Ortiz7/9/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-09T04:00:00Z2022-0015-C.A.The 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.
7/3/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-03T04:00:00Z
Shelley Carpenter v. Norman Carpenter 7/3/2024 4:00:00 AM;2024-07-03T04:00:00Z2023-0047-Appeal.The 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.