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

October 2014 Archives

Ex-Judges to SCOTUS: Stop Execution of Mo. Man Abandoned by Counsel

It's hard for most people to feel sorry for Mark Christeson. According to The Associated Press, he teamed up with his cousin to rape a mother of two, then, when one of the kids recognized him, Christeson and his cousin murdered the whole family before taking off with their car and electronics.

Of course, there's often more to the story -- murderers don't often emerge from the womb without a conscience. Often, there's mental illness, or some sort of childhood tragedy, that makes you wonder if this person really deserves the death penalty.

Christeson never got the chance to tell that story because his attorneys, who still represent him and refuse to admit fault, missed the habeas deadline. He's scheduled for execution by the State of Missouri at midnight tonight, unless the U.S. Supreme Court steps in and grants relief.

Conviction Stands, ACCA Sentence Tossed in Mo. Firearm Case

The police rolled up on Warnell Reid's place to arrest his girlfriend, Earnestine Graham, who had herself violated the terms of her federal supervised release. When they got there, the front door was slightly open and Graham was standing inside in her pajamas. She was quickly arrested without incident, a protective sweep of the house was done (because of the presence of minors), and then she was allowed to change.

When police officers escorted her into the house, they noticed an SKS rifle in plain sight. Graham told police that the rifle belonged to her boyfriend, who himself showed up and was detained moments later. Graham also gave police permission to search the home, which led to the discovery of two more firearms and ammunition.

Reid was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and sentenced to a term of 188 months' imprisonment as an armed career criminal. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit upheld the conviction but vacated the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) sentence.

Ark. Supreme Court Says 'No Thanks' to Voter ID

It's getting hard to keep track of all the states that introduced laws requiring voters to produce state-issued photo IDs in order to vote. You can take Arkansas off the list (oh, but you'll need to add it to the list of voter ID cases that could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court -- like the ones out of Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina).

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court's determination that Act 595, passed in 2013, was unconstitutional.

Handwritten Letter Didn't Amend Trust: Mo. Supreme Court

Dr. K.R. Conklin had two children from his first marriage, and then acquired two stepchildren (not adopted) via his second marriage. In 1996, before his second marriage, he created a trust for the benefit of his biological children only (conveniently called "Children" in the opinion).

In 2002, Conklin and his second wife Jo undertook a cross-country trip by plane and automobile. On their way to the airport, Conklin wrote a letter by hand indicating what should happen to his estate if he and his wife should die during this trip. The letter included the two stepchildren in the distribution of Conklin's assets. He left the letter in the car's glovebox, which was parked at the airport.

SCOTUS Will Hear At Least 5 Cases From 8th Cir. This Term

Predictably, the Ninth Circuit leads the pack so far in cert. grants with eight, but who's No. 2? If you guessed the Fifth Circuit, you'd be wrong: It's the Eighth!

That many from North Dakota? Iowa? Arkansas? Yup, the Court will hear five cases from the Eighth Circuit this term (at least so far). Here they are:

Mo. Trial Court: Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Add Missouri to the list of states the U.S. Supreme Court definitely doesn't won't take same sex marriage petitions from. Last week, delivering on its promise of a quick ruling, a Missouri trial court declared Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Like many other same-sex marriage cases, the issue arose because same-sex Missouri residents had tied the knot in other jurisdictions where same gay marriage was legal.

Indep. Contractor Gets No ADA, ADEA, FMLA, SDHRA Protection

Dr. Larry Alexander's case was obvious, yet unfortunate. And it's a great reminder of why independent contractor relationships are risky for the not-quite-employee.

From 1991 to 2011, Dr. Alexander was associated with Avera St. Luke's, a non-profit organization running St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Avera terminated its relationship with Dr. Alexander after he suffered from a series of health issues from 2008 to 2011 -- a heart attack, a heart transplant, and a hospitalization for bipolar disorder.

What is his recourse? Absolutely nothing, since he was providing services under an obvious independent contractor relationship.