Missouri Western Court of Appeals to hear cases at Westminster

FULTON, Mo. - The public will have an opportunity to observe three Missouri Western Court of Appeals cases on Thursday at Westminster College.

First-degree murder, suspended driver’s license and a civil suit involving Shelter Mutual Insurance are the basis of the three cases, chosen by clerk for the court Terry Lord. He said the court tries to find cases that are near the hearing location.

In the appellate court, judges listen to attorney arguments that detail the original case. The attorneys can state if they believe the trial in circuit court was flawed and would warrant a possible decision reversal.

Lord said because the Missouri Western Court of Appeals is located in Kansas City, it’s not convenient for people in the court’s district to witness proceedings.

The purpose the western appellate court going “on the road,” he said, is to educate the public on how the appellate court system works. Audience members can ask questions during the hearings.

Television primarily showcases trial courts, Lord added.

“We’re trying to take the mystery out of the appellate court system,” Lord said. The Missouri Western Court of Appeals has a history of using colleges to host these hearings, but Lord said the court will also utilize area courthouses. The western court hears cases two times every year in Fulton at Westminster and William Woods University.

“Colleges have a ready-made audience (with students),” Lord said.

Judges Mark Pfeiffer, Joseph Ellis and Victor Howard will hear the cases. Pfeiffer will be the presiding judge.

The hearings being at 9:30 a.m. at Hermann Lounge in the Hunter Activities Center. The cases that will be heard are:

• Sullentrop v. Director of Revenue: The arresting officer, Deputy Toby Young, noticed Lance Sullentrop was seated in a parked vehicle with its engine running, according to the case summary. Young requested Sullentrop’s driver’s license and also noticed the “smell of intoxicants” when he got out of his car. The summary also states Young took Sullentrop’s breath sample which came back at .092 percent. Sullentrop’s driver’s license was later taken from him by the Director of Revenue.

The summary states Sullentrop disagrees with the decision because the “decision was not supported by substantial evidence.” It continues to state that the Director of Revenue, at trial, “was so contradictory and confusing that it could not reasonably support a finding that there was probable cause to arrest (Sullentrop)”

• Harvey v. State of Missouri: Chester Harvey was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, armed criminal action, two counts of kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse, according to the case summary. Harvey argues that trial court was wrong when it did not recognize ineffective assistance of counsel for Harvey due to a conflict of interest.

The summary also states Harvey is arguing ineffective assistance of counsel because “the attorney-client relationship had completely broken down and where (Harvey) had no faith in counsel’s ability or willingness to effectively represent him…”

• Shelter Mutual Insurance Company v. Jay and Debra Macvittie: The Macvitties were involved in a car accident and Debra Macvittie claimed deprivation of benefits. There was a dispute over how much Debra Macvittie should be awarded for her claim and if she is limited to a certain Shelter Mutual Insurance Policy. The trial court sided with the Macvitties and now Shelter Mutual Insurance is claiming the trial court was false in its interpretation of the policy.

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