Archive | McKinnon, J.

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State v. Jeffries

State v. Jeffries, 2018 MT 17 (Feb. 6, 2018) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the municipal court a used its discretion by denying Jeffries’ motion to exclude breath evidence.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Jeffries was stopped by Missoula police early one morning while driving with no tail lights. Jeffries’ vehicle had a large portion of its front bumper missing, only one working headlight, and was dripping fluid. Investigation revealed recent property damage along Jeffries’ route with pieces of her vehicle left behind. The officer noticed Jeffries’ speech was slurred. Jeffries admitted to having two or three mixed drinks several hours earlier. A second police officer also noticed Jeffries’s speech was slurred and that her eyes were bloodshot, she was unsteady on her feet, and her breath smelled strongly of alcohol.…

State v. Santiago

State v. Santiago, 2018 MT 13 (Jan. 30, 2018) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion by giving the deadlocked jury an Allen instruction.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Santiago was charged with sexual intercourse without consent, plead not guilty, and went to trial. On the last day of trial, after a few hours of deliberations, the jury sent the judge a note saying it was deadlocked 11-1. The state suggested the court give the jury an Allen instruction, otherwise known as a dynamite instruction, which the Montana Supreme Court approved in Norquay. Santiago objected on the grounds that the vote was 11-1, arguing that the Allen instruction would put an extreme undue burden on the one juror.…

State v. Kline

State v. Kline, 2016 MT 177 (July 19, 2016) (McKinnon, J.; Baker, J., concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in concluding SK was not legally accountable for Kline’s incest, and (2) whether sufficient evidence corroborated SK’s testimony.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) yes.


Facts: The state charged Kline with criminal distribution of drugs, endangering the welfare of children, and incest, all felonies, in December 2013. According to the information, Kline committed these offenses by giving methamphetamine to SK, his daughter, allowing SK to ingest meth while in his care, and having sexual intercourse or sexual contact with SK.…

Hanson v. State

Hanson v. State, 2016 MT 152 (June 21, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing Hanson’s petition for postconviction relief as a sanction for failing to comply with discovery.

Short Answer:  No.


Facts: Hanson was convicted of sexual assault and deviate sexual conduct for offenses involving a young boy. His conviction was affirmed in 1997. He filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the district court denied for insufficiency in form. This Court affirmed in 1999. Hanson petitioned for habeas corpus, and his petition was demised as procedurally defaulted. Hanson appealed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed in 2003.…

In the Matter of SH

In the Matter of SH, 2016 MT 137 (June 7, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court relied on sufficient evidence to determine SH required commitment, and (2) whether SH received ineffective assistance of counsel.

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


Facts: SH sought help from the Billings Clinic ER in November 2014, complaining there were snakes in her stomach, black bugs in the toilet, and the voices of God and Satan were arguing in her head. A psychiatrist at the clinic examined her and, upon his recommendation, the state petitioned to involuntarily commit SH on November 12, 2014. The district court ordered SH detained at the clinic pending resolution of the petition, appointed counsel to represent SH, and appointed the clinic psychiatrist as the professional person to evaluate SH.…

Fire Insurance Exchange v. Weitzel

Fire Insurance Exchange v. Weitzel, 2016 MT 113 (May 17, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by concluding Fire Insurance Exchange (FIE) had a duty to defend Weitzel under the terms of the insurance policy.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in FIE’s favor

Facts: The estate of Ronny Groff brought suit against Jake Weitzel, alleging that Weitzel gained the trust of Groff, an elderly man, and then absconded with Groff’s property and assets over a number of years. Groff’s children hired Weitzel in 2010 to provide in-home care services to Groff and his wife, who died in 2011. Weitzel provided services until Ronny died in July 2013.

The estate’s complaint alleges that after Ronny’s wife died, Weitzel began to wrongfully exert control over Ronny and exploit him to her financial gain.  …

State v. Crawford

State v. Crawford, 2016 MT 96 (April 26, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in denying Crawford’s motion to suppress; (2) whether Crawford received ineffective assistance of counsel; (3) whether the district court improperly denied Crawford’s third discovery request; (4) whether the district court erred by denying Crawford’s post-trial motion to dismiss; and (5) whether the district court adequately addressed Crawford’s complaints about his assigned counsel.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; (3) no; (4) no; and (5) yes.


Facts: Crawford was released on parole in December 2010 after incarceration at Montana State Prison for multiple drug-related felony convictions. As a condition of his parole, he was required to obtain written permission from his parole officer before traveling outside of Silver Bow, Beaverhead, Jefferson or Deer Lodge counties.…

Ray v. Connell

Ray v. Connell, 2016 MT 95 (April 26, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in granting Connell summary judgment on Ray’s defamation claim based on a conversation between Connell and Ronquillo; (2) whether the district court erred in granting Connell summary judgment on Ray’s defamation claim based on comments Connell made at two Billings City Council meetings; and (3) whether the district court erred in granting Connell summary judgment on Ray’s claims of tortious interference and general damages based on Connell’s alleged defamation of Ray’s character.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no; and (3) no.


Facts: Ray and Connell are real estate agents who own land in the East Billings Urban Revitalization District (EBURD).…

In the Matter of KB

In the Matter of KB, 2016 MT 73 (March 29, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (7-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over KB’s abuse and neglect proceeding, and (2) whether Father received ineffective assistance of counsel.

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


Facts: KB was removed from her mother’s care in November 2012, at the age of 5, due to concerns about Mother’s inability to protect KB from domestic violence. KB was placed in kinship foster care with her aunt and uncle, where she has remained. Her younger sister, TH, also lives with aunt and uncle.

KB was adjudicated a youth in need of care in 2013, and the Department drafted a treatment plan for Father.…

Heavygun v. State

Heavygun v. State, 2016 MT 66 (March 22, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Heavygun received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Heavygun was charged with and convicted of deliberate homicide, felony DUI, violation of an order of protection, felony criminal endangerment, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and felony tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison plus other concurrent sentences. His conviction was affirmed by this Court in 2011.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Heavygun petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition, and Heavygun appeals. The Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: Heavygun argues ineffective assistance on the grounds that: 1) he was represented by six public defenders, three of whom were his attorney of record; 2) his attorney failed to investigate and present evidence of his victim’s history of violence; and 3) his attorney failed to adequately prepare him to testify.…