Archive | Harmless error

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State v. Rickett

State v. Rickett, 2016 MT 168 (July 12, 2016) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion by requiring Rickett to wear a leg brace during trial.

Short Answer: Yes, but it was not a structural error, and there was no reasonable possibility the defendant was prejudiced.

Affirmed

Facts: In July 2012 the state charged Rickett with aggravated kidnapping, burglary, intimidation, and escape based on its contention that he escaped a pre-release center, and kidnapped his former foster mother to gain access to the safe at a Bozeman restaurant where she worked as a bookkeeper.

The district court held a trial over three days in February 2014. Rickett appeared in person wearing street clothes with a leg brace on his right leg underneath his pants.…

Low v. Reick

Low v. Reick, 2016 MT 167 (July 12, 2016) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that Reicks’ lot is encumbered by a single easement, the existing road, measured 10 feet from each side of the road’s centerline; (2) whether the district court erred by holding Low lacked authority to sign an application for a permit to improve Reicks’ lakeshore property; (3) whether the district court erred by concluding the maintenance agreement is unenforceable against Reicks for lack of consideration; (4) whether the district court erred in holding that Reicks did not breach the maintenance agreement; (5) whether the district court erred by concluding Low breached the road detour agreement, and awarding damages to Reicks; (6) whether the district court erred by concluding Reicks did not convert Low’s fill material; and (7) whether the district court erred in ordering Low to pay Reicks’ attorney’s fees and costs arising from their counterclaim.…

City of Missoula v. Duane

City of Missoula v. Duane, 2015 MT 232 (Aug. 11, 2015) (Cotter, J.; McGrath, C.J. concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether allowing Dr. Sjolin to testify against Duane via Skype offended Duane’s rights under the Confrontation Clause; and (2) whether the district court erred in concluding M.R. Evid. 611(e) does not apply to criminal cases.

Short Answer: (1) No; and (2) yes, but it was a harmless error.

Affirmed

Facts: Duane and two others were charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals after police responded to a report of a dead puppy, found filthy conditions and no water, and a necropsy revealed the puppy died of blunt force trauma.

Before trial, the city requested that Dr. Sjolin, the veterinarian who performed the necropsy, be allowed to testify via Skype, or that her supervisor be allowed to testify to Sjolin’s report, as Sjolin had moved to California.…

State v. Pingree

State v. Pingree, 2015 MT 187 (June 30, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.; Baker, J., dissenting) (4-2, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in admitting testimony given by Pingree’s wife at an earlier civil order of protection, and (2) whether the error was harmless.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.

Reversed

Facts: In September 2012, the Ravalli County Attorney charged Pingree with felony assault with a weapon and misdemeanor partner/family-member assault, alleging Pingree pointed a gun at his wife and fired it to the left of her head. In October 2012, Pingree’s wife, Caroline, sought an order of protection in Butte, where the parties’ dissolution had been filed. Pingree was at the hearing, although without counsel. He testified but did not contest the order.…