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State v. Robertson

State v. Robertson, 2015 MT 266 (Sept. 8, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the probationary condition prohibiting Robertson from having contact with his son and daughter violates his statutory and constitutional rights.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Dustin Robertson was charged with kidnapping the mother of his young children, Chalsea Cady, by restraining her at their apartment in July 2011; misdemeanor endangering the welfare of children; and two counts of felony partner/family member assault. He pled guilty to one offense of criminal endangerment of Cady for physically assaulting her, and the state dropped the remaining charges.

The presentence investigation reported a history of physical and mental abuse of Cady by Robertson, and proposed a probationary condition prohibiting Robertson from having any contact with Cady unless she initiated it through the DOC.…

State v. Lee

State v. Lee, 2015 MT 259 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court had authority to order the sale of Lee’s firearms and apply the proceeds to the costs of Lee’s incarceration in a county detention center.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed and remanded for entry of amended judgment

Facts: Lee was charged with robbery, assault with a weapon and burglary after allegations that he unlawfully entered a couple’s home in July 2013, pointed a gun and demanded money. Officers arrested Lee and confiscated weapons from his home and vehicle. Garfield County paid to incarcerate Lee until his sentencing in May 2014.

Lee pled nolo contender to all charges in exchange for the state not pursuing sentencing enhancements for using a dangerous weapon.…

State v. Graves

State v. Graves, 2015 MT 262 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by revoking Graves’ suspended sentence before it began; (2) whether Graves was required to sign his conditions of probation before he was subject to those conditions; (3) whether the district court erred in denying the admission of Graves’ out-of-state court records; (4) whether the district court could impose a sentence to the MSP when revoking a 1995 sentence to the DOC; (5) whether the district court erred by denying Graves credit for time served while incarcerated in Oregon after the revocation petition had been filed but before he was transferred to Montana.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) no, as the reason he didn’t sign was that he escaped; (3) yes; (4) no; (5) yes.…

State v. Kebble

State v. Kebble, 2015 MT 195 (July 14, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Rice, J., dissenting) (4-2, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the justice court abused its discretion in denying Kebble’s challenge for cause of a prospective juror; (2) whether the justice court abused its discretion in granting the state’s motion in limine prohibiting Kebble for presenting evidence of the circumstances surrounding suspension of his outfitters license; and (3) whether the justice court erred when it sentenced Kebble under the statute in effect when he committed the crime rather than the one in effect when he was charged and convicted.

Short Answer: (1) Yes. When a potential juror works for the person or entity on whose behalf the prosecution was initiated, a challenge for cause must be granted; (2) no; and (3) no.…

Beach v. State

Beach v. State, 2015 MT 118 (May 5, 2015) (Baker, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring: Wheat, J., dissenting; Shea, J., dissenting; Cotter, J. dissenting) (4-3, petition denied)

Issue: Whether Barry Beach’s sentence of 100 years without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional under Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012).

Short Answer: No.

Petition for writ of habeas corpus denied

Facts: Beach was convicted of deliberate homicide in 1984 for a crime committed in 1979, when Beach was 17. The district court imposed the maximum sentence of 100 years without the possibility of parole. The record does not show that the court expressly considered Beach’s youth when imposing the sentence.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Beach petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his sentence is unconstitutional under Miller v.

State v. Himes

State v. Himes, 2015 MT 91 (March 24, 2015) (Shea, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether “security” was adequately defined for the jury; (2) whether the state proved that Himes sold a security; (3) whether the mens rea rule requires a mental state other than ‘willfully’ to sustain a felony conviction; (4) whether the “willfully” jury instruction created a strict liability offense, and renders the 10-year sentence a violation of Himes’ due process rights; (5) whether the fraudulent practices jury instruction was erroneous; and (6) whether Himes was properly sentenced.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; (3) yes; (4) no; (5) yes; and (6) yes.

Affirmed in part and reversed (fraudulent practices conviction)

Facts: Geoffrey Serata met Harris Himes at Himes’ ministry, Big Sky Christian Center.…

State v. Osborn

State v. Osborn, 2015 MT 48 (Feb. 17, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether district court properly denied Osborn’s Rule 60(b) motion.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: Osborn was sentenced for several offenses to suspended sentences, running concurrently and consecutively. After a number of violations, the state petitioned to revoke his suspended sentence, and the district court granted the petition. Osborn sought review from the Sentence Review Division, which concluded the sentence was not clearly excessive.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Osborn moved for relief from the judgment under M.R. Civ. P. 60(b). The state argued the Rules of Civil Procedure do not apply in a criminal case, and the district court denied the motion. Osborn appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.…

State v. Byrd

State v. Byrd, 2015 MT 20 (Jan. 27, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in imposing $800 in public defender fees in the written judgment after imposing $500 in the oral pronouncement; and (2) whether the district court erred in denying Byrd credit for time served in a residential treatment facility.

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

Affirmed and reversed

Facts: Amanda Byrd was convicted of fraudulently obtaining dangerous drugs, a felony, in 2008. In January 2011 she was charged with a second offense of the same crime. In exchange for her guilty plea to a single count, the parties agreed to an 8-year sentence to the DOC, with 3 years suspended.…

State v. Zunick

State v. Zunick, 2014 MT 239 (Sept. 9, 2014) (4-1) Cotter, J., for the majority; McGrath, C.J., dissenting

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it did not provide Zunick the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea at sentencing pursuant to § 46-12-211(4), MCA, and subsequently denying Zunick’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed & remanded for resentencing

State v. Hammer

State v. Hammer, 2013 MT 203 (July 23, 2013) (5-0) (Wheat, J.)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court sufficiently inquired into Hammer’s pretrial complaint about his counsel; (2) whether the district court erred in denying Hammer’s motion for a new trial; and (3) whether the district court erred in assessing fees, costs, and surcharges when those amounts were not orally pronounced.

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

Affirmed and remanded to conform written judgment to oral sentence