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On Friday, the Court of Criminal Appeals released new published opinions in a number of cases. Unlike memorandum opinions, published opinions are precedential—meaning that they are decisions that are binding on future cases, both at trial and on appeal. Below are some the highlights of these decisions: 

Ex parte State, CR-2022-0966

Ridgeway was previously tried and convicted of capital murder-burglary and capital murder-robbery. The circuit court, however, granted Ridgeway’s motion for a new trial. Ridgeway later sought to plead guilty to murder charges, but the circuit court rejected those pleas and set the case for trial. Prior to the start of trial, however, the State and Ridgeway filed petitions for a writ of mandamus on three issues—two joint petitions and one petition by the State. 

One joint petition was for substitution of defense counsel—this petition was moot due to things that happened during the stay. 

The second joint petition was to require the judge to accept the plea deal—this was denied on the merits because of what the judge had said on the record in a hearing and his having presided over the original trial. Judges have wide discretion over accepting or rejecting plea agreements. And in this case, the judge acted within his discretion. 

The State’s petition sought to recuse the judge because the State was concerned about it receiving a fair trial based how the circuit court had ruled in the past. The Court rejected this argument because the circuit had acted within its discretion and there was no grounds for recusal. 

Ex parte Green, CR-2023-0325

This is the Aniah’s law decision. Aniah’s Law challenged the bail system in Alabama. Previously, all non-capital criminal defendants had a presumptive right to bail. That is no longer the case depending on the charges a defendant faces. 

Green was charged and bail was set. At the preliminary hearing, the State asked that bail be raised and the judge revoked bail entirely. The problem is that § 15-13-3(b)(7) specifies a procedure for reopening a prior bail determination and that procedure was not followed in this case. The State must file a motion to reopen the prior bail determination. And because that did not happen in this case, the bail revocation was reversed 

Also, while the Court did not directly answer this issue, it did note that for reopening bail, “the trial court must find that information exists that was not known by the movant at the time of the pretrial detention hearing.”

C.B.R. v. State, CR-2022-0738

Court rejected argument that C.B.R.’s appearance at trial had not been waived. He was there at a pretrial hearing and had plenty of notice of when trial was supposed to occur and that he should be there, but didn’t appear at time. While a defendant has a right to be present at trial, when the record shows that the defendant attended the first day of trial and later did not return or knew that trial was scheduled and that he or she should be there but did not appear; then the defendant can be found to have waived his or her right to be present at trial. 

The Court also rejected the argument that the State failed to provide notice of the child victim’s out-of-court-statement. The statement was turned over in discovery and the Court held that when the statement is included with discovery, it is sufficient to provide notice that the state intends to use the statement—satisfying § 15-25-35. 

Zink v. State, CR-2022-0919

The Court affirmed Zink’s sexual abuse conviction after determining that sufficient evidence was presented to support forcible compulsion. The Court reversed his sentence, however, as illegal because it lacked the required split.