State v. Bertram, 2018 S.D. 4. Bertram was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for life in connection with the shooting death of his fiancée. Bertram, appeals, arguing that the circuit court violated his Sixth Amendment right of cross-examination by refusing to admit evidence that he passed a polygraph examination for the purpose of impeaching another witness’s testimony. He also argued that the circuit court improperly admitted character evidence used against him. On appeal, the Court, per Chief Justice Gilbertson, affirmed, holding that South Dakota’s per se rule against admitting polygraph test results did not violate the Sixth Amendment, and that the circuit court also did not abuse its discretion either by excluding Bertram’s polygraph evidence or by admitting the State’s evidence of Bertram’s liaisons with other women in the days leading up to his fiancee’s death. Even so, the Court held, Bertram had not established prejudice on either issue.
Schaefer v. Sioux Spine & Sport & Flanders, 2018 S.D. 5. Following a car accident, Flanders insurer approached Schaefer about the possibility of a settlement. It offered her $3,500, and, in exchange for that payment, Flanders’s insurer asked her to sign a release, which she did sign, even though her medical bills totaled more than the settlement. (A new release was subsequently signed contemplating a greater allowance.) Schaefer filed an action against Flanders alleging negligence. The circuit court granted summary judgment in Flanders’s favor on the basis of a release that Schaefer signed. On appeal, Schaefer argued that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether her consent to the release was based on a mistake and obtained by undue influence. She also argued that a genuine issue of material fact existed on the question whether the injury forming the basis for this negligence action was known at the time she signed the release. The Court, per Chief Justice Gilbertson, agreed and reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact as to whether Schaefer’s consent was secured through undue influence, whether Schaefer’s sternal fracture was a known injury at the time she consented to the release, whether she would have signed the release had her injury been known, and whether the release precludes her claim.