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December 2014 Archives

Stacey-Sotiriou v. Sotiriou

Justia Opinion Summary  Cynthia Stacey-Sotiriou and Eve Sotiriou were the legal parents of a child born in 2006. In 2008, Cynthia and Eve jointly adopted the child. The parties' relationship ended soon thereafter. In 2009, Cynthia filed a petition for the determination of parental rights and responsibilities. Eve then moved to Greece with the three-year-old child, indicating that she would not return with the child unless Cynthia agreed to allowing Eve to have primary residence. The district court entered a judgment establishing shared parental rights and responsibilities. Cynthia subsequently filed a motion to modify the judgment as well as a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(3), alleging that she had agreed to the judgment under duress. The district court granted both motions and awarded Cynthia primary residence of the child and Eve unsupervised contact with the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its award of rights of contact, including unsupervised contact, to Eve.

State v. Garcia

Justia Opinion Summary  After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted for operating after revocation. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as amended, holding (1) any error by the trial court in refusing to instruct the jury about certain statutory requirements applicable to written notices of revocation was harmless; and (2) even if the State improperly offered and used documents that Defendant alleged were not properly identified as part of an exhibit but nonetheless were presented to the jury did not rise to the level of obvious and reversible error. Remanded for correction of an improper statutory reference in the judgment and commitment order.

State v. Garcia

Justia Opinion Summary  After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted for operating after revocation. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as amended, holding (1) any error by the trial court in refusing to instruct the jury about certain statutory requirements applicable to written notices of revocation was harmless; and (2) even if the State improperly offered and used documents that Defendant alleged were not properly identified as part of an exhibit but nonetheless were presented to the jury did not rise to the level of obvious and reversible error. Remanded for correction of an improper statutory reference in the judgment and commitment order.

Attorney Zerillo Gets Client 31 Month Sentence and RDAP Program Recommendation for Drug Trafficking Case in United States District Court

In a case involving drug trafficking to and from Massachusetts to Maine, Attorney Zerillo got his Client a 31 month sentence yesterday in Federal Court. This represented the very lowest end of the United States Sentencing Guideline range. There was no departure for substantial assistance to the authorities. Rather, it was the nature of the Defendant's own addiction that drove him into this lifestyle that was the focus of the sentencing argument.

Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. ___ (2014)

Justia Opinion Summary
Following a suspicious vehicle, Sergeant Darisse noticed that only one of the brake lights was working and pulled the driver over. While issuing a warning ticket for the broken light, Darisse became suspicious of the actions of the occupants and their answers to his questions. Heien, the car's owner, gave Darisse consent to search the vehicle. Darisse found cocaine. Heien was arrested and charged with attempted trafficking. The trial court denied Heien's motion to suppress, concluding that the faulty light gave Darisse reasonable suspicion for the stop. The North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed, holding that N. C. Gen. Stat. 20-129(g), requires only a single lamp, which Heien's vehicle had, so that the justification for the stop was objectively unreasonable. Reversing, the state Supreme Court held that Darisse's mistake was reasonable. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. The Fourth Amendment requires government officials to act reasonably, not perfectly. Reasonable suspicion arises from an understanding of both the facts and the law. Whether an officer is reasonably mistaken about the one or the other, the result is the same. Because the Fourth Amendment tolerates only objectively reasonable mistakes, an officer gains no advantage by "Ignorance of the law." The vehicle code's wording made it objectively reasonable to think that a faulty brake light constituted a violation.

Are prosecutors above the law?

by Susan Grigsby
There is something terribly wrong with a justice system that allows an inordinate amount of power to reside in the hands of one office that not only has no real accountability or oversight, but is insulated from the consequences of its actions by court-granted immunity. And no, I am not talking about Supreme Court justices, but about prosecuting attorneys.

United States v. Davis

Justia Opinion Summary
Defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty to being a felon in possession of two firearms, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court subsequently sentenced Defendant as an armed career criminal to fifteen years imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) district court correctly refused to suppress two statements Defendant made regarding the presence of firearms inside his residence based on alleged Miranda violations; and (2) the district court did not err in labeling Defendant an armed career criminal subject to an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

Cultivation of Marijuana Case Against Caregiver Dismissed

Attorney Zerillo was handling a Lincoln County case in which officers from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office and Maine State Police seized some growing marijuana plants, dried marijuana and seeds. They also charged felony charges for the processed marijuana they claimed was on the property. We argued their warrant was defective and the search and seizure unlawful. The case was dismissed completely today - congrats to our Client!
Zerillo Law handles a lot of marijuana and other drug cases. We also consult with a network of caregivers and consultants to the marijuana industry.

Light v. D'Amato

Justia Opinion Summary Mother, who was from Italy, married Father, and the parties had one child. Father later filed for divorce. The district court entered a divorce judgment finding that, while the parties were both in Maine, it was in the child's best interest to remain in the primary custodial care of Mother. The court also ordered that, if Mother relocated to Italy, primary residence would shift to Father so the child could remain in Maine. The court also divided the marital real estate, financial assets and debts. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding that the district court (1) did not limit Mother's constitutional right to travel or deprive Mother of her liberty without due process when balancing the parents' and the child's rights and interests in reaching its judgment; (2) did not abuse its discretion in refusing to reopen the evidentiary record to allow Mother to present evidence of the parties' changed residential circumstances and work prospects; and (3) erred in failing to allocate Father's deferred compensation account to one party or the other after determining it had no marital value.

Walton v. Ireland

Justia Opinion SummaryAfter a hearing, the district court issued a protection from abuse order against Father, finding that he had sexually abused his five-year-old daughter, ordering that he have no contact with her, and temporarily awarding sole parental rights and responsibilities to Mother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of statements that the victim made to a social worker during therapy identifying Father as her abuser; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence of statements the victim made during a forensic interview; and (3) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's finding of abuse.

State v. Mourino

Justia Opinion SummaryDefendant pleaded not guilty to passing a stopped school bus in violation of 29-A Me. Rev. Stat. 2308(2). After a bench trial, the trial court found Defendant guilty and imposed a $250 fine. Defendant filed a motion for findings of fact, which was denied. Defendant then appealed, arguing that "meeting or overtaking a school bus from either direction" means that the statute's commend to stop applies when a school bus is approached from the front or the rear but not when the bus is approached from the side at a "T" intersection, as occurred in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, holding that the trial court did not err in rejecting Defendant's interpretation of the statute and in finding Defendant guilty as charged.