U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

March 2017 Archives

Court Says Harmless Error for Police to Question Tired and Drugged Suspect

Finding only harmless error, a federal appeals court affirmed a second-degree murder conviction of a man who said police questioned him while he was "sick and exhausted."

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction of Terrance C. Jackson three years to the day after he stabbed a man to death during an argument. Although Jackson asked for a lawyer after his arrest, officers continued to question him in United States of America v. Jackson.

"Given the very limited nature of the questions asked by the officers regarding Jackson's health, we conclude that they were not 'reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect,'" Judge Jane Kelly wrote for the appeals court. "Moreover, because Jackson voluntarily disclosed that he had been awake for several days and using drugs, the agents' follow-up questions regarding his health do not constitute an interrogation."

Court Rejects Suit Alleging School Unlawfully Restrained Autistic Child

A federal appeals court said a mother failed to exhaust administrative remedies before she sued a school district for isolating and restraining her autistic child.

Kristine McCauley sued Francis Howell School District, alleging that teachers put physical restraints on her boy at school for two years before she found out about it. She then removed her child from the district and sued under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other laws.

A trial judge dismissed her case and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that she first should have sought a due process hearing under the Act.

"McCauley's voluntary decision to remove J.M. from school, and thus seek only compensatory and punitive damages rather than compensatory education services, does not exempt her from the exhaustion requirement," the court said in J.M. v. Francis Howell School District.

Court Upholds Banning Political Insignia on Clothing at Polling Places

If at first you don't succeed, act like it never happened in the first place.

That's my personal takeaway from a case about whether Tea Party representatives could sue election officials for making them remove political insignia from their clothing at polling places. But you have to dig through the opinion to find that nugget to take away.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the Tea Party could not state a claim because polling places are not public forums and the "no political insignia" rule was a reasonable content-neutral regulation. That's the legal gist of the decision.

My personal takeaway is about how the Tea Party members tried to get around the law as applied to their case. It makes the drudgery of case law amusing, if not memorable.