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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    By William C. Lhotka
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Dec. 21 2004

    St. Louis Rams defensive stalwart Leonard Little is trying an end run around
    county courts to get his pending felony drunken driving charge dismissed.

    The Pro Bowl defensive lineman has petitioned the Missouri Supreme Court to
    throw out the felony indictment on the grounds that the law authorizing the
    charge is unconstitutional.

    The dismissal request before the high court is pending, Beth Riggert, the
    Supreme Court's communications director, confirmed Monday, and the judges could
    rule on the matter as early as this afternoon.

    Little's attorneys, James Bennett and K. Lee Marshall of the Bryan Cave law
    firm, are contending that a spate of U.S. Supreme Court rulings since 2000
    relating to a defendant's right to trial by jury under the Sixth Amendment
    apply in Little's case.

    Specifically, the lawyers say in court documents filed with the Missouri
    Supreme Court that by Missouri law, a judge, not a jury, has decided that
    Little is a persistent offender, and the statute that makes his pending case a
    felony therefore fails to pass muster.

    Bennett and Marshall's arguments were rejected July 30 by St. Louis County
    Circuit Judge Emmett M. O'Brien and Nov. 3 by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

    Mark Bishop, the assistant prosecutor trying Little, argued in his recent reply
    that the lower courts acted properly and the Supreme Court should reach the
    same conclusions.

    If the high court rules otherwise, the decision could be devastating statewide,
    Bishop said, and affect a dozen other statutes, including six sex abuse laws in
    which new charges become felonies because of prior misdemeanor convictions.

    Little pleaded guilty of involuntary manslaughter six years ago in a drunken
    driving accident downtown that took the life of Susan Gutweiler.

    At 3:44 a.m. on April 26, Ladue police Officer Greg Stork stopped Little on
    Interstate 64 (Highway 40) at Lindbergh Boulevard. Stork alleged that he
    clocked Little's 2003 Mercedes at 78 mph in a 55-mph zone.

    Stork said the defendant smelled of alcohol, failed sobriety tests, admitted he
    had been drinking and refused a Breathalyzer test.

    Because of his prior conviction for manslaughter, under a law passed by the
    Legislature in 2001, Little is a persistent offender. If he is convicted of the
    pending drunken driving charge, Little will face a maximum of four years in
    prison as a felon, instead of jail time.

    Under a series of rulings beginning in 2000 and culminating in Blakely v.
    Washington this year, the U.S. Supreme Court has moved steadily toward a theory
    that only juries, not judges, can enhance punishment.

    Little's lawyers say the prior conviction is an element of felony drunken
    driving. All elements in an indictment must be proved to a jury, the lawyers
    say, but Missouri law requires the judge and not the jury to determine the
    element of a prior conviction.

    Therefore, O'Brien, the trial judge, has no option but to throw out the charge,
    and his failure to do so is "an abuse of discretion and usurpation of judicial
    power," the lawyers say. Bennett and Marshall say three states have followed
    that logic.

    Bishop, the prosecutor, says judges in Illinois and 10 other states agree with
    the prosecution theory that persistent offender language is a sentencing
    enhancement provision, not an element of a separate and distinct crime.

    Even if parts of the persistent offender statute for drunken driving were to be
    found invalid, Bishop argued, the proper remedy would be for a jury to decide
    whether Little should be tried as a persistent offender. Bennett and Marshall
    say the Legislature would have to write a new law.

    On a different front, court records show that Little's trial attorneys, Scott
    Rosenblum and John Rogers, are seeking all of Stork's arrest records for the
    year prior to his arrest of Little. Bishop is arguing that those records should
    be confidential.

  2. #2
    AvengerRam's Avatar
    AvengerRam is offline Moderator Emeritus
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    Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    This is a bit of a "Hail Mary" of a legal argument. Not to say it can't work, but I wouldn't bet on Little avoiding a trial as a result of this argument.

  3. #3
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    It's about this time when it pays to have a lawyer as a member of the board.

  4. #4
    UtterBlitz's Avatar
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    Re: Leonard LIttle calls on court to toss out DUI case

    Avenger, can you translate for us? This article confused me. Simple language for simple minds, ok....

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