Justia Daily Opinion Summaries

Criminal Law
May 24, 2024

Table of Contents

Brown v. United States

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Supreme Court

Brown v. Penders

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

United States v. Calderon-Zayas

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

United States v. Reardon

Banking, Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

United States v. Villa-Guillen

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

USA v. Goerig

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Cox v. Weber

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

United States v. Martinez

Criminal Law, Immigration Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

USA v. Mcneal

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

USA v. Naranjo

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

United States v. Hayden

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

United States v. Merritt

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

United States v. Harris

Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

United States v. Atilano

Criminal Law, Immigration Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

United States v. Haskins

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

United States v. Lucas-Hernandez

Criminal Law, Immigration Law

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

USA V. CLOUD

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Graham v. White

Criminal Law, Native American Law

US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

United States v. Elmore

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

United States v. Pena

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Marken Leger v. U.S. Attorney General

Criminal Law, Immigration Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

USA v. Blanco

Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

USA v. Etienne

Civil Rights, Criminal Law

US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

USA v. Saffarinia

Contracts, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts

US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Svensen v. Hester

Business Law, Criminal Law

Supreme Court of Alabama

P. v. Carter

Criminal Law

Supreme Court of California

P. v. Koontzy

Criminal Law

California Courts of Appeal

State of Florida v. Creller

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Florida Supreme Court

Marsalis v. State

Criminal Law

Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal

People v. Joiner

Criminal Law

Supreme Court of Illinois

People v. Shunick

Criminal Law

Supreme Court of Illinois

State of Maine v. Lovejoy

Criminal Law

Maine Supreme Judicial Court

Commonwealth v. Lepage

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

State v. Hoehn

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

Nebraska Supreme Court

People v Brown

Criminal Law

New York Court of Appeals

People v Estwick

Civil Rights, Criminal Law

New York Court of Appeals

People v Lively

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

New York Court of Appeals

People v Nektalov

Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

New York Court of Appeals

People v Watkins

Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

New York Court of Appeals

State v. Copley

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Giese

Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Jonas

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Reber

Criminal Law, Juvenile Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Singleton

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Stewart

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Vann

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State v. Washington

Criminal Law

North Carolina Supreme Court

State ex rel. Yeager v. Lake Cty. Court of Common Pleas

Criminal Law

Supreme Court of Ohio

LeFebvre v. State

Criminal Law, Family Law

Rhode Island Supreme Court

State v. Brown

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Rhode Island Supreme Court

BALTIMORE v. STATE OF TEXAS

Criminal Law

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

HUGHES V. STATE OF TEXAS

Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

WOOD V. STATE OF TEXAS

Criminal Law

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

State v. Carter

Criminal Law

Washington Supreme Court

Benedict v. State

Criminal Law, Family Law

Wyoming Supreme Court

Free Featured Webinar

Criminal Law Opinions

Brown v. United States

Court: US Supreme Court

Docket: 22-6389

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The Supreme Court of the United States was tasked with interpreting the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) in relation to state drug convictions that occurred before recent amendments to the federal drug schedules. The ACCA imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence on defendants convicted for illegal firearm possession who have a criminal history demonstrating a propensity for violence. A defendant with three previous convictions for a "serious drug offense" qualifies for ACCA's enhanced sentencing.

Petitioners Justin Rashaad Brown and Eugene Jackson were separately convicted of the federal crime of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In both cases, an ACCA enhancement was recommended based on prior state felony drug convictions. Both defendants argued that their prior convictions did not qualify as "serious drug offenses" due to changes in the federal definition of the drugs involved in their convictions. The District Courts disagreed and sentenced the petitioners to enhanced sentences, and the respective appellate courts affirmed.

The Supreme Court held that a state drug conviction counts as an ACCA predicate if it involved a drug on the federal schedules at the time of that conviction. The Court reasoned that the ACCA is a recidivist statute that gauges what a defendant’s “history of criminal activity” says about his or her “culpability and dangerousness.” The Court also noted that the Government’s interpretation best fulfills ACCA’s statutory objectives. The Court affirmed the judgments of the Courts of Appeals.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Brown v. Penders

Court: US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Docket: 22-1945

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: LYNCH

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

Suzanne Brown, a federal prisoner, appealed the denial of her habeas corpus petition. Brown was convicted on twelve counts of making a materially false statement to a federal agency and was sentenced to twelve months of imprisonment and a two-year term of supervised release. She began her term of imprisonment in January 2022, with release scheduled for January 2023. However, in March 2022, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) calculated that Brown had earned fifteen First Step Act (FSA) credits, which it applied to accelerate her release date to December 17, 2022. In August 2022, BOP transferred Brown to home confinement under the emergency measures of the CARES Act, still with a calculated release date of December 17, 2022.

Brown filed a petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, arguing that she had earned enough FSA credits to qualify for release on September 2, 2022, and that BOP's decision not to correct her FSA credit calculation and apply FSA credits to accelerate her release would result in her being held unlawfully in custody. A magistrate judge recommended that Brown's petition for habeas corpus be denied, and the district court adopted that recommendation and denied the petition. Brown timely appealed.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reviewed the denial of the habeas petition de novo. Brown conceded that controlling precedent foreclosed some of the relief she sought earlier. She now asked only that the court hold her term of supervised release began on August 2, 2022, when she was transferred to home confinement. However, the court affirmed the denial of habeas relief, stating that the BOP's transfer of Brown to home confinement was a form of BOP custody, and her term of supervised release could not begin until the BOP released her from that custody. The court expressed no view as to whether Brown could receive relief under other procedural mechanisms, such as 18 U.S.C. § 3583.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Calderon-Zayas

Court: US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Dockets: 22-1353, 22-1447

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: MONTECALVO

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The defendant, Victor J. Calderon-Zayas, was convicted of aiding and abetting another person to illegally possess a machine gun, a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 922(o). This conviction occurred while Calderon-Zayas was on supervised release for a previous conviction related to drug distribution. The machine gun in question was a modified pistol, which the court deemed more dangerous than an average machine gun. Calderon-Zayas was sentenced to a sixty-month sentence, which was above the guidelines range, and an additional eighteen-month sentence for violating the terms of his supervised release.

The case was first heard in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, where Calderon-Zayas pled guilty to the charges. He challenged the length of his sentence, arguing that the court overemphasized the aggravating factors and overlooked the mitigating factors. He also argued that the court improperly relied on the dangerous nature of the firearm involved as a basis for the upward variance. As for the revocation sentence, he argued that the court erred by not considering the § 922(o) sentence when crafting the punishment for the supervised release violation.

The case was then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The appellate court found no error in the lower court's decision and affirmed both the § 922(o) and revocation sentences. The court held that the sentencing court properly balanced the § 3553(a) factors and that the dangerousness of the modified pistol was a valid consideration for an upward variance in the sentence. The court also found that the consecutive revocation sentence was within the court's discretion and did not require consideration of the § 922(o) sentence.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Reardon

Court: US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Docket: 22-1883

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: RIKELMAN

Areas of Law: Banking, Criminal Law

Nathan Reardon, who had been self-employed for 24 years, was convicted of bank fraud after submitting fraudulent applications for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a financial assistance program enacted by Congress in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reardon used several of his businesses to submit the fraudulent applications and misused the funds from the approved loan. He was sentenced to twenty months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release. As part of his sentence, the district court imposed a special condition prohibiting Reardon from all forms of self-employment during his supervised release term.

Reardon appealed this special condition, arguing that it was overly restrictive and unnecessary. The government suggested a "middle ground" where the condition could be modified to avoid a total prohibition against self-employment, but the district court overruled Reardon's objection and imposed the self-employment ban without explaining why it was the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public, as required by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that while the district court was justified in imposing an occupational restriction, it did not provide sufficient explanation for why a total ban on self-employment was the minimum restriction necessary to protect the public. The court therefore vacated the self-employment ban and remanded the case for reconsideration of the scope of that restriction.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Villa-Guillen

Court: US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Docket: 21-1545

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: RIKELMAN

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Ricardo Villa-Guillen, who was convicted by a jury for conspiring to traffic cocaine from Puerto Rico to the continental United States. Villa appealed, alleging errors in the district court proceedings. The court agreed with Villa that two of the district court's evidentiary rulings led to prejudicial error. These rulings involved the admission of a letter discussing Villa's potential interest in a plea deal, which the government claimed was tantamount to a confession, and the admission of testimony suggesting that Villa was more likely to have committed this crime because he had supposedly participated in a different drug transaction. The court reversed and ordered a new trial.

The district court had admitted a redacted version of a letter Villa had written to the court seeking information about a pending motion. In the letter, Villa stated that he "ha[d] expressed . . . [his] desire to reach an agreement with the Government." The court believed the letter was "relevant because Villa's assertions convey a consciousness of guilt," and the court thought its admission was fair because Villa sent the "incriminating letter to the Court on his own accord." The court also noted that the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit had affirmed its ruling admitting what it considered to be a similar letter in a different case, although the earlier case did not involve a Rule 403 objection.

The court concluded that the district court's instruction combined with the government's argument indicated that the "natural and intuitive" inference to draw from the letter was that Villa's interest in a plea agreement meant he was guilty. The court therefore reversed and ordered a new trial.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Goerig

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Docket: 23-1582

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Bibas

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case revolves around Jonathan Goerig, who was found parked in a high-school parking lot. A police officer, acting on a tip, approached Goerig and began questioning him. The officer noticed Goerig's shorts were pulled down and his suspicious responses led the officer to order him out of his truck. Evidence found in the truck revealed that Goerig planned to meet a minor for sex.

Prior to the current review, the District Court had denied Goerig's motion to suppress the evidence found in his truck, his statements to the arresting officers, and all evidence recovered from his phone and iCloud account. The court held that the officer had not seized Goerig until he told him to get out of the truck and by then, he had reasonable suspicion. It also ruled that police had validly seized all the evidence.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's judgment. The court held that the police officer did not seize Goerig until he ordered him to step out of the truck. Until then, the officer was just asking him questions. The court also held that by the time the officer ordered Goerig out of the truck, he had reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop. The court further held that the arrest was proper and that the police validly searched and seized all the evidence. The court concluded that the Terry stop, arrest, and searches and seizures were proper, and thus affirmed the District Court's judgment.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Cox v. Weber

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Docket: 23-6044

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Quattlebaum

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Ronald Cox, who was convicted of first-degree murder and three firearm offenses based primarily on the testimony of a jailhouse informant. The informant claimed that Cox and his co-defendant confessed their involvement in the murder. Cox's trial counsel declined to introduce jail records that suggested Cox and the informant were not in the same area of the jail when the alleged conversation took place. Cox sought postconviction relief on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, which was denied by the state postconviction court.

The United States District Court for the District of Maryland also denied Cox's petition for habeas relief but issued a certificate of appealability on Cox's ineffective assistance claim. Cox appealed the district court's denial of his petition, and the State cross-appealed the district court's issuance of the certificate of appealability.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Cox's petition. The court found no reason to dismiss the certificate of appealability and, due to the highly deferential standard governing petitions alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, affirmed the district court's denial of Cox's petition. The court concluded that the state postconviction court's denial of Cox's ineffective assistance claim was not objectively unreasonable.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Martinez

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Docket: 23-40366

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: Dennis

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Immigration Law

Buzzy Martinez was arrested and charged with transporting undocumented aliens hidden in his tractor-trailer after a U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) canine alerted to the vehicle. Martinez argued that the canine’s alerts could not provide the handler with the necessary reasonable suspicion to extend the stop of his vehicle and probable cause to search it because dogs are unable to reliably differentiate between the scents of a vehicle’s driver and concealed humans within the vehicle. The district court denied Martinez’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered from his vehicle, and he pleaded guilty while preserving his right to appeal the suppression ruling.

The district court found that the USBP canine and its handler were adequately trained and certified to detect concealed humans, and that dogs are capable of detecting concealed humans. The court concluded that the canine’s alerts and indications were reliable, providing reasonable suspicion to extend the stop for a second sniff, and probable cause to search Martinez’s tractor-trailer after Martinez was removed from the vehicle. Martinez was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, followed by a term of supervised release of three years, and he appealed the ruling.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the district court's finding that the canine was reliable in detecting concealed humans was not clearly erroneous. The court also noted that the canine was trained and certified to detect both concealed humans and controlled substances, and Martinez did not contest the canine's ability to detect controlled substances. Therefore, the canine's alert provided the handler with reasonable suspicion to investigate for and probable cause to search for controlled substances. The court concluded that the canine's alerts and indications at the primary inspection point provided reasonable suspicion to extend the stop and investigate for concealed humans, and at the secondary inspection point, after Martinez exited the vehicle and stated no one else was inside, the canine's continued alerts to the cab area of Martinez’s tractor-trailer provided probable cause to search the cab for concealed humans.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Mcneal

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Docket: 23-20351

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Oldham

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Albert McNeal, a convicted felon, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, violating federal law. He had a significant criminal history, including 18 convictions, seven of which were felonies, many involving violence and weapon use. His current conviction stemmed from an alleged aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and murder related to two separate shootings. The district court sentenced him to 60 months of incarceration and a three-year term of supervised release. McNeal challenged this sentence as procedurally erroneous.

Prior to sentencing, the Probation Office recommended a four-point enhancement for using a weapon in connection with another felony offense. McNeal objected to this enhancement. The district court, however, decided that the Guidelines, with or without the enhancement, did not accurately reflect McNeal’s criminal history and the nature of his offense. The court concluded a variance was necessary to satisfy the sentencing factors. It declined to rule on the objection to the enhancement as unnecessary and chose a 60-month sentence that fell outside of the Guidelines system.

McNeal appealed, arguing that his sentence was procedurally unreasonable because the district court did not rule on his objection to the enhancement. He contended that the court could not have calculated the applicable Guidelines range without ruling on the enhancement, making the court’s variance decision procedurally improper. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disagreed, stating that the district court did calculate the applicable Guideline range and that any error was harmless. The court affirmed the district court's decision, stating that the district court made clear its decision to vary from the Guidelines.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Naranjo

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Docket: 22-50938

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Southwick

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Rudy Naranjo, a federal prisoner, was serving concurrent 360-month sentences for multiple drug conspiracy offenses involving crack and powder cocaine, and a consecutive 120-month sentence for using and possessing a semiautomatic weapon in furtherance of the drug crime. He moved under Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018 seeking a sentence reduction, which the district court denied. Naranjo then filed a second Section 404 motion. The district court dismissed that motion for lack of jurisdiction under Section 404(c) and, alternatively, denied the motion on the merits.

Previously, Naranjo had been indicted on four counts of conspiring to and possessing with the intent to distribute crack and powder cocaine, and for knowingly using and possessing a semiautomatic weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He was found guilty on all counts. After a series of post-conviction proceedings and appeals, Naranjo filed several motions challenging his sentence under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, all of which were denied. He then filed his first motion seeking relief under Section 404 of the First Step Act, arguing he was eligible for a sentence reduction. The district court denied this motion, concluding that Naranjo did not qualify for relief under the Fair Sentencing Act.

In the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Naranjo asserted that the district court erred when dismissing his second Section 404 motion for lack of jurisdiction. He also alleged that the district court should have reduced his sentence for his powder cocaine offense and should have analyzed the “full slate” of his arguments. The Court of Appeals held that Section 404(c) is a mandatory claim-processing rule, not a jurisdictional bar as the district court assumed. However, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, concluding that Section 404(c)’s limitation on multiple motions must be enforced to bar Naranjo’s second Section 404 motion.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Hayden

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Docket: 23-5571

Opinion Date: May 20, 2024

Judge: BATCHELDER

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Keita Jerrod Hayden was convicted for violating the terms of his supervised release for the second time. The district court imposed a seven-month term of incarceration followed by an eight-year term of supervised release. Hayden challenged his supervised-release term on two grounds: first, that it is longer than his statute of conviction allows, and second, that the district court violated his right to be present at sentencing by imposing the mandatory and standard conditions by reference.

The district court had previously sentenced Hayden to a ten-year prison term and eight years of supervised release for knowingly and intentionally possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture containing cocaine base. Hayden violated the terms of his supervised release twice, first by driving under the influence of alcohol, and second by being intoxicated in a public place. Each time, the district court sentenced him to imprisonment followed by an eight-year supervised-release term.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. The court found that the district court did not exceed the statutory-maximum term of supervised release and provided Hayden with sufficient notice of the conditions to satisfy due process. The court also determined that the district court did not violate Hayden's due-process right by incorporating the standard supervised-release conditions by reference. The court concluded that the district court had followed an appropriate procedure in imposing four special discretionary conditions upon Hayden during his supervised release.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Merritt

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Docket: 23-1216

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Nalbandian

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Emmanuel Merritt was convicted for being a felon in possession of firearms and was sentenced to 120 months in prison. Prior to his guilty plea, Merritt had spent several months evading authorities, leading the district court to deny him a two-point reduction in his total offense level for not accepting responsibility. Additionally, the district court increased Merritt's criminal history score by three points due to a past state offense that included a total prison sentence of 870 days. Merritt contested both decisions, arguing that his sentence was only 330 days due to credits he received.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan disagreed with Merritt's objections. It found that Merritt had not clearly demonstrated acceptance of responsibility and that his criminal history score was calculated correctly. Merritt was sentenced to a within-Guidelines sentence of 120 months in prison.

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court found that the district court did not err in denying the two-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility, given Merritt's history of evading authorities. The court also upheld the district court's calculation of Merritt's criminal history score, ruling that the Guidelines required the addition of three points for Merritt's past state offense.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Harris

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Docket: 23-1294

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: SYKES

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

The defendant, Otho Harris, visited a Boost Mobile store for assistance with his broken cellphone. When told it could not be repaired, he became enraged and later set fire to the store, causing extensive damage. Harris was charged with arson and, after difficult relationships with three different appointed attorneys, he chose to represent himself and eventually pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $195,701 in restitution.

The case moved slowly due to Harris's disagreements with his appointed counsel. After the third appointed lawyer moved to withdraw, Harris decided to represent himself. He filed numerous pretrial motions and requests with the court. A few weeks before the scheduled trial date, he agreed to plead guilty and signed a written plea agreement with the government. The judge accepted his guilty plea and set the case for sentencing.

On appeal, Harris challenged only the restitution order, arguing that it was not supported by a proper investigation and determination of the loss amount. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that Harris had waived his right to challenge the restitution order by expressly affirming the accuracy of the factual material in the presentence report at the sentencing hearing. The court noted that Harris had ample notice of the restitution amount, the factual basis for it, and an opportunity to object. He did not object; on the contrary, he affirmed that he was satisfied with the accuracy of the factual material in the presentence report. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Atilano

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Docket: 23-2699

Opinion Date: May 20, 2024

Judge: Erickson

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Immigration Law

The defendant, Luis Antonio Flores Atilano, was found guilty of being an alien in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(5)(A) and 924(a)(8), and was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment. The case arose when law enforcement officers were dispatched to a motel room in South Dakota, where they found Atilano. Upon searching him and his belongings, they discovered three firearms and ammunition. Atilano, who was born in Mexico and entered the U.S. in 2008, claimed that he believed he was lawfully in the U.S. due to paperwork completed by his wife, and that he had the firearms for self-protection due to threats from gang members.

The district court held a one-day bench trial, during which the government presented evidence including law enforcement witnesses, Atilano’s recorded interview with law enforcement, and various other exhibits. The court found Atilano guilty of being an alien in possession of three firearms and eight rounds of ammunition. Atilano was subsequently sentenced to a within-Guidelines sentence of 36 months’ imprisonment.

On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Atilano argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew he was an alien unlawfully present in the U.S. and that he was acting under duress at the time of the offense. The court, however, affirmed the district court's decision. It found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to conclude Atilano knew he was in the U.S. unlawfully. The court also rejected Atilano's duress defense, stating that his evidence consisted of a generalized and speculative fear of violence and he failed to show that he had no reasonable legal alternative to committing the crime.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Haskins

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Docket: 23-2274

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: Loken

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

In June 2021, Leonard Haskins was stopped by police in Jonesboro, Arkansas for a traffic violation. Upon approaching the vehicle, officers smelled marijuana, leading to a search of the vehicle. They found a 9mm pistol in the glovebox, various drugs including methamphetamine and ecstasy, digital scales, and a box of 9mm ammunition in a backpack behind the passenger seat. Haskins admitted ownership of the pistol and the contents of the backpack. He was subsequently indicted for four drug and firearm violations, including being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Haskins pleaded guilty to the first count, and the government dismissed the other counts.

The Presentence Investigative Report calculated an advisory guidelines range of 51 to 63 months imprisonment. At sentencing, the district court adopted the report without objection and granted Haskins a three-level acceptance reduction, reducing the guidelines range to 46 to 57 months imprisonment. However, the court advised that an upward variance may be appropriate given the nature of the offense and Haskins' criminal history. After extensive argument and allocution, the district court sentenced Haskins to the statutory maximum of 120 months, a 63-month upward variance from the top of the advisory guidelines sentencing range. Haskins appealed, arguing the sentence was substantively unreasonable.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court noted that it reviews a defendant’s challenge to substantive reasonableness under a highly deferential abuse-of-discretion standard. The court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the statutory maximum sentence. The court had given the applicable guidelines careful consideration, but concluded that the sentencing factors warranted a substantial upward variance. The court had considered the mitigating factors noted by defense counsel but found them outweighed by the need for specific deterrence, promotion of respect for the law, and protection of the public from further crimes. The appellate court concluded that disagreement with how the district court weighed the relevant sentencing factors does not justify reversal.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Lucas-Hernandez

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Docket: 22-50110

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Bolton

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Immigration Law

Ulises Romeo Lucas-Hernandez was arrested by Border Patrol Agent Brian Mauler in a remote area north of the U.S.-Mexico border. During the arrest, Agent Mauler asked Lucas-Hernandez three questions in Spanish about his citizenship and immigration status. Lucas-Hernandez was subsequently charged with misdemeanor attempted entry by an alien under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1). Before trial, Lucas-Hernandez moved to exclude Agent Mauler from testifying to his Spanish-to-English translation of the questions and answers, arguing that the statements were hearsay and that Agent Mauler was not qualified as an expert to translate the statements. The magistrate judge denied the motion regarding hearsay, reasoning that the statements made by a defendant are considered party admissions, not hearsay.

The magistrate judge found Lucas-Hernandez guilty of violating 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1) and he was sentenced to time served. Lucas-Hernandez challenged his conviction in district court, asserting that Agent Mauler’s testimony of his field statements was hearsay and fell outside the hearsay exclusion in Rule 801(d)(2) because Agent Mauler was not a “mere language conduit” under United States v. Nazemian. The district court affirmed the magistrate judge’s ruling and found that Nazemian did not apply, and so Agent Mauler’s testimony as to Lucas-Hernandez’s field statements was not hearsay.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the Nazemian analysis applies to the statements of a party opponent that are translated by the testifying witness. However, the court concluded that any error in admitting Agent Mauler’s testimony was harmless, considering the evidence presented from Lucas-Hernandez’s A-file, the database searches, and the circumstances when he was found by Agent Mauler. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling upholding Lucas-Hernandez’s conviction under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1).

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA V. CLOUD

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Docket: 22-30044

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: McKeown

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The case involves the United States government's appeal against a district court's order to pay monetary sanctions for failing to disclose information that suggested its key witness in a criminal trial was willing to shape her testimony in exchange for certain benefits. The case arose from a five-body homicide trial where the government's star witness, Esmeralda, was willing to alter her testimony for benefits. The defense learned about this not from the government, but from Esmeralda's counsel. The district court found that the government's failure to disclose this information violated the defendant's due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, and imposed sanctions on the government.

The district court's order was appealed by the government before the final judgment was issued in the underlying criminal case. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order, holding that it had appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because the sanctions order satisfied the elements of the collateral-order doctrine.

On the merits, the court found that the government had suppressed evidence, and that suppression was material under Brady. The court held that the district court's decision to exclude the testimony and impose sanctions was not an abuse of discretion. The court also held that the district court did not violate the government's sovereign immunity by imposing monetary sanctions under an exercise of its supervisory powers.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Graham v. White

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Docket: 23-5069

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: BACHARACH

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Native American Law

The case revolves around Kimberly Graham, who was convicted for first-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. After her convictions became final, she applied for postconviction relief, arguing that she was a Native American and the events took place on a reservation. The state district court granted her relief and vacated her convictions based on the Supreme Court's ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which stated that the State of Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed by Native Americans within a reservation. However, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals later overruled the precedent that allowed for the application of McGirt to convictions that had already become final. Consequently, the state district court reinstated Graham's convictions.

Graham then sought a writ of prohibition from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that a liberty interest had arisen from the order vacating her convictions. The court denied her request, stating that the new precedent prevented the application of McGirt to convictions that had become final and that the initial order vacating the convictions was unauthorized under Oklahoma law. Graham then sought habeas relief, claiming that the reinstatement of her convictions had arbitrarily stripped her of her liberty interest. The federal district court agreed with Graham and granted habeas relief.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the grant of habeas relief. The court held that regardless of whether the state appeals court had erred, its rejection of the due process claim was at least reasonable based on the facts and Supreme Court precedent. The court concluded that the state appeals court did not unreasonably determine the facts or apply a Supreme Court holding. Therefore, the federal district court should have deferred to the state appeals court.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Elmore

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Docket: 22-1432

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Moritz

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

In this case, law enforcement officers responded to a drug overdose at the home of Corban Elmore. After securing the scene and prohibiting anyone from entering the house, the officers waited almost eight hours before applying for a search warrant. Once they had a warrant, they searched Elmore’s home and discovered two firearms in his bedroom. Elmore, a convicted felon, entered a conditional guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm and appealed the denial of his motion to suppress the firearms.

The District Court for the District of Colorado denied Elmore's motion to suppress the firearms, finding no Fourth Amendment violation. The court determined that the officers reasonably seized Elmore’s home because they had probable cause to believe the home contained evidence of drug possession and had good reason to fear that evidence would be destroyed before they could secure a search warrant. The court also concluded that the officers acted reasonably throughout the seizure, finding it appropriate for them to prohibit anyone from entering the home and to delay obtaining a warrant so that the lead detective could focus on his investigation.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the lower court's decision. The appellate court held that the eight-hour seizure of Elmore’s home was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that the exclusionary rule required suppression of the firearms. The court found that the officers made no effort to reconcile their law-enforcement needs with Elmore’s Fourth Amendment interests in his home and extended the seizure longer than reasonably necessary to diligently secure a warrant. The court remanded the case for further proceedings.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

United States v. Pena

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Docket: 22-2154

Opinion Date: May 20, 2024

Judge: Eid

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Bobby Pena, who pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. He reserved his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to suppress child pornography that was recovered on his devices pursuant to a search warrant. Pena argued that the affidavit upon which the search warrant was based did not present probable cause and that the federal agents did not act in good faith in executing the search warrant. He also argued that in the absence of probable cause and good faith, evidence of child pornography would not have been inevitably discovered on his electronic devices.

The district court denied Pena's motion to suppress, concluding that the magistrate judge had a substantial factual basis to find probable cause. The court found that the file and folder names observed by Agent Kucenski indicated the presence of child pornography. The court also concluded that Pena's suspicious statements to officers supported a finding of probable cause. The court found that Pena's practices with his digital devices and Agent Kucenski's declarations regarding the practices of child pornography collectors supported a finding of probable cause.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the district court did not err in finding that the affidavit established probable cause and provided a sufficient basis for the search warrant. The court also declined to remand Pena's fraud procurement case for resentencing.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Marken Leger v. U.S. Attorney General

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Docket: 22-10971

Opinion Date: May 20, 2024

Judge: Jordan

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Immigration Law

The case involves Marken Leger, a Haitian citizen who has lived in the United States as an asylee since 2000. In 2009, Leger pleaded no contest to a charge of lewd and lascivious battery, in violation of Florida Statute § 800.04(4). In 2013 and 2018, Leger pleaded no contest to two other offenses, both for the possession of marijuana, in violation of Florida Statute § 893.13(6)(b). The government initiated removal proceedings against him in 2019, alleging that his convictions made him removable under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The immigration judge concluded that Leger was removable, finding that his marijuana possession convictions constituted controlled substance offenses under the INA and that his conviction under Florida Statute § 800.04(4) was an aggravated felony. Leger appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which affirmed the immigration judge’s decision.

In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the court held that Leger's marijuana possession convictions did not constitute controlled substance offenses as defined under federal law, and thus, the BIA erred in determining that Leger was subject to removal on these grounds. The court also held that Leger's conviction under Florida Statute § 800.04(4) did not constitute the sexual abuse of a minor and was not an aggravated felony under the INA. The court vacated the BIA's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Blanco

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Docket: 22-10419

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Jordan

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Jonathan Guerra Blanco was charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. He pled guilty and agreed to the government’s factual proffer. Guerra ran two unofficial ISIS media networks primarily directed at Spanish speakers, producing and disseminating ISIS propaganda, recruiting materials, and instructional guides for committing acts of terror. He was arrested in Miami in September 2020.

Guerra appealed his 192-month sentence, contending that the government improperly used evidence obtained from testimony he had provided pursuant to a proffer agreement and that the district court erred in not holding an evidentiary hearing on the matter. He also challenged the application of a 12-point sentencing enhancement for promoting a federal crime of terrorism and asserted that the district court erred by not applying a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility from his maximum statutory sentence of 240 months.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that the government's use of the video threatening the assassination of a Spanish judge, with English subtitles inserted by Guerra, did not constitute a breach of the proffer agreement. The court also upheld the application of the terrorism enhancement, finding that Guerra's conduct was "calculated to influence the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion." Lastly, the court found no abuse of discretion with respect to the district court's application of the 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Etienne

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Docket: 23-10266

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: PRYOR

Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

In 2021, Carmelo Etienne threatened violence against a federal magistrate judge, a courtroom deputy, and other courthouse employees via a phone call to a federal courthouse. He later pleaded nolo contendere to threatening to assault and murder a federal magistrate judge and a courtroom deputy. The district court imposed a time-served sentence and three years of supervised release. As special conditions of that release, the district court ordered Etienne to make financial disclosures to the probation office and prohibited him from visiting certain federal courthouses and from calling the judges’ chambers or court facilities. Etienne challenged both conditions on appeal.

Previously, the district court had overruled Etienne's objection to the stay-away order, which he argued unduly burdened his right to access the federal courts. He did not object to the financial disclosure condition.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court found that it was not plain error to impose the financial disclosure condition. The court also found that the stay-away order was not vague or overbroad and did not unduly burden Etienne’s right to access the federal courts. The court noted that the stay-away order was narrowly tailored to address Etienne’s serious criminal conduct and did not create an absolute bar on Etienne’s rights.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

USA v. Saffarinia

Court: US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Docket: 23-3080

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: Edwards

Areas of Law: Contracts, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts

Eghbal Saffarinia, a former high-ranking official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG), was required by federal law to file annual financial disclosure forms detailing most of his financial liabilities over $10,000. One of Saffarinia’s responsibilities was the allocation of HUD-OIG’s information technology contracts. An investigation revealed that Saffarinia had repeatedly falsified his financial disclosure forms and failed to disclose financial liabilities over $10,000. The investigation also revealed that one of the persons from whom Saffarinia had borrowed money was the owner of an IT company that had been awarded HUD-OIG IT contracts during the time when Saffarinia had near-complete power over the agency operation.

Saffarinia was indicted on seven counts, including three counts of obstruction of justice. A jury convicted Saffarinia on all seven counts, and the District Court sentenced him to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release. Saffarinia appealed his conviction, arguing that the law under which he was convicted did not extend to alleged obstruction of an agency’s review of financial disclosure forms because the review of these forms is insufficiently formal to fall within the law’s ambit. He also argued that the evidence presented at trial diverged from the charges contained in the indictment, resulting in either the constructive amendment of the indictment against him or, in the alternative, a prejudicial variance. Finally, Saffarinia challenged the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found no basis to overturn Saffarinia’s conviction. The court held that the law under which Saffarinia was convicted was intended to capture the sorts of activity with which Saffarinia was charged. The court also found that the government neither constructively amended Saffarinia’s indictment nor prejudicially varied the charges against him. Finally, the court found that the evidence presented at Saffarinia’s trial was sufficient to support his conviction. The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the District Court.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Svensen v. Hester

Court: Supreme Court of Alabama

Dockets: SC-2023-0680, SC-2023-0762, SC-2023-0898, SC-2024-0096, SC-2024-0143, SC-2024-0206

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: Mitchell

Areas of Law: Business Law, Criminal Law

During the COVID-19 pandemic, John Svensen wrote a check to Jeff Hester's company, Ginesis, for several thousand bottles of hand sanitizer. The check bounced, leading Ginesis to sue Svensen and his company, Marketpointe, for the owed money. After a series of legal proceedings, Hester pressed charges against Svensen for the bad check, resulting in Svensen's arrest. The Lauderdale Circuit Court later dismissed the criminal complaint due to the statute of limitations, and Svensen subsequently sued Hester for malicious prosecution.

The Lauderdale Circuit Court initially entered a default judgment against Svensen and Marketpointe for failing to answer Ginesis's complaint. After Svensen successfully vacated the default judgment, the court set a bench trial. However, Svensen did not appear, leading to another default judgment against him. After Svensen provided an excuse, the court vacated the default judgment and reset the trial. Meanwhile, Hester, on the advice of his attorney, took the bounced check to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, leading to Svensen's arrest.

The Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of Hester. The court found that Hester had probable cause to believe that Svensen had committed the crime of negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument, as it is a crime in Alabama to knowingly write someone a bad check. The court rejected Svensen's argument that Hester lacked probable cause because the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor offenses had expired. The court reasoned that the expiration of the limitations period does not affect whether the defendant actually committed the offense charged.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

P. v. Carter

Court: Supreme Court of California

Docket: S278262

Opinion Date: May 20, 2024

Judge: Liu

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

In 2007, Ishmael Michael Carter was committed to Coalinga State Hospital pending trial on a petition to commit him as a sexually violent predator (SVP) under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. After waiting for trial for over 12 years, Carter filed a motion to dismiss the petition, asserting his due process right to a timely trial. Additionally, he filed a motion to replace his public defender, believing the office would be disqualified from litigating the motion to dismiss on his behalf. The trial court denied Carter's motion to replace his counsel, declined to rule on the motion to dismiss, and conducted a trial resulting in Carter's indeterminate commitment as an SVP.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decisions. Carter argued that the trial court's inquiry into his request for new counsel was insufficient and required a full reversal of the judgment or, alternatively, a conditional reversal pending reconsideration of his request for new counsel and potential litigation of his motion to dismiss. The Attorney General agreed that the trial court should have investigated whether a potential conflict of interest would have prevented Carter's public defender from litigating the motion to dismiss.

The Supreme Court of California held that the trial court conducted an insufficient inquiry into Carter's request for new counsel and erred in instructing Carter to file his motion to dismiss pro se. The court agreed with the Attorney General that a full reversal at this stage would be premature. The court conditionally reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remanded the case with directions to conditionally vacate the SVP judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

P. v. Koontzy

Court: California Courts of Appeal

Docket: A167703A(First Appellate District)

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: SIMONS

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The defendant, Takeya Lashay Koontzy, pleaded no contest to fleeing the scene of an injury accident and was placed on probation with the condition that she pay victim restitution in an amount to be determined. Due to the victim’s delay in providing documentation of her damages and failure to appear on multiple dates set for restitution hearings, the trial court did not determine the amount of restitution before the termination of Koontzy’s probation. More than two years post-termination, the court ordered Koontzy to pay $86,306.12 in victim restitution.

Koontzy argued that the trial court was without authority to modify the amount of restitution owed to the victim following the termination of probation. She relied on People v. Martinez to argue that the court’s jurisdiction to do so was not extended by Penal Code section 1202.461 because the restitution was not for losses incurred “as a result of the commission of a crime.”

The Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District agreed with Koontzy, distinguishing the present case from their decision in People v. McCune, in which there was no dispute that the restitution was properly imposed under section 1202.4. The court concluded that the trial court erred in modifying the restitution order after termination of Koontzy’s probation. The court reasoned that the restitution order in this case was for losses due to the accident rather than losses due to Koontzy’s criminal conduct in leaving the scene. Thus, the trial court was not authorized to impose the restitution obligation under section 1202.4. Because the order was not imposed under section 1202.4, section 1202.46 did not provide a basis to extend jurisdiction to modify restitution following termination of probation. Instead, the restitution order was a condition imposed under section 1203.1, and it was subject to the limitations in section 1203.3 permitting modification of probation conditions only during the term of probation. The trial court’s April 2023 restitution order was reversed.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State of Florida v. Creller

Court: Florida Supreme Court

Docket: SC2022-0524

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Francis

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

The case involves Joshua Lyle Creller, who was charged with resisting an officer without violence and possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, following a 2018 traffic stop. Creller refused to comply with a K-9 officer’s command to exit his vehicle during the traffic stop for officer safety. After his arrest, methamphetamine was found on his person. Creller moved to suppress the evidence of its discovery.

The trial court denied Creller’s motion to suppress, finding the State’s evidence credible. The court concluded that the officer's request for Creller to exit the vehicle was for officer safety and did not violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. Creller was subsequently convicted by a jury. However, the Second District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction, holding that Creller was unlawfully seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment when the initial traffic stop transformed into a narcotics investigation for which no prior probable cause existed. The court certified conflict with the Fifth District Court of Appeal in State v. Benjamin, which reached the opposite conclusion.

The Supreme Court of Florida disagreed with the Second District Court of Appeal's interpretation. The court held that the Fourth Amendment allows a K-9 officer to order a driver to exit a vehicle during a lawful traffic stop for officer safety reasons. The court concluded that the K-9 officer's command to Creller to exit the vehicle was reasonable and did not transform the traffic stop into a narcotics investigation. Therefore, the court quashed the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal and approved the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in State v. Benjamin.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Marsalis v. State

Court: Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal

Docket: 49786

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Zahn

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case revolves around Jeffrey Marsalis's appeal for post-conviction relief based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Marsalis was convicted of rape in 2009, a decision upheld by the Idaho Court of Appeals. He then filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of his 120-day speedy trial right under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers and for not hiring an expert witness to support his "blackout defense." The district court denied Marsalis's petition for post-conviction relief.

The case was previously reviewed by the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Blaine County. The district court summarily dismissed Marsalis's petition after concluding that there was not a genuine issue of material fact regarding any of Marsalis's claims. Marsalis appealed the dismissal, and the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in summarily dismissing the claims that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present an expert witness to discuss the scientific basis behind Marsalis's blackout defense, and for failing to inform Marsalis of his speedy trial rights under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers. It remanded the case to the district court, which eventually denied the petition.

In the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. The court found that Marsalis failed to establish prejudice on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim concerning the Interstate Agreement on Detainers' 120-day speedy trial timeframe. The court also found that Marsalis failed to establish prejudice on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim concerning his trial counsel's failure to retain an expert witness. The court concluded that Marsalis failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that the charges against him would have been dismissed with prejudice had trial counsel asserted his speedy trial rights at the December 1 hearing. The court also concluded that Marsalis failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that, if an expert had provided some additional explanation concerning the scientific bases for blackouts, the jury would have found him not guilty. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of Marsalis's petition for post-conviction relief.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v. Joiner

Court: Supreme Court of Illinois

Citation: 2024 IL 129784

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Mary Jane Theis

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Antuan Joiner, who was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder following a 2014 bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County. The appellate court affirmed his convictions, remanded for a new sentencing hearing, and affirmed the new sentence imposed on remand. Joiner subsequently filed a petition for postconviction relief under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act, which the circuit court summarily dismissed as frivolous and patently without merit. Joiner appealed, arguing that the petition must be advanced to the second stage both because the circuit court failed to rule on it within 90 days after it was filed and docketed and because the claims had merit. The appellate court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment.

The Supreme Court of the State of Illinois affirmed the judgment of the appellate court. The court held that the trial court complied with the Act and dismissed Joiner's petition within 90 days after it was filed and docketed on August 4, 2021. The court also found that Joiner was not arguably prejudiced by counsel’s failure to call certain witnesses. Based on the strength of the victims’ identification of Joiner as the shooter, the court concluded that the proposed testimony by the witnesses would not have arguably changed the outcome of the trial.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v. Shunick

Court: Supreme Court of Illinois

Citation: 2024 IL 129244

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Overstreet

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Char M. Shunick, who was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. After his conviction, Shunick filed a petition for postconviction relief, which was summarily dismissed by the circuit court of Knox County. Shunick then filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal, which was also denied by the circuit court. The appellate court found that Shunick's motion to reconsider was untimely and, as a result, his notice of appeal was also untimely. Consequently, the appellate court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to address the substantive merits of the appeal.

The Supreme Court of the State of Illinois affirmed the judgment of the appellate court. The court found that Shunick's motion to reconsider was not timely filed under the Illinois mailbox rule, rendering his subsequent notice of appeal untimely and preventing appellate court jurisdiction over the substantive merits of his appeal. The court also found that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to order a remand to allow Shunick to cure the jurisdictional defect by supplying a compliant certificate of service. The court concluded that the appellate court correctly followed precedent and concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to remand the cause to allow Shunick to cure the jurisdictional defect by supplementing the record with a compliant certificate of service.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State of Maine v. Lovejoy

Court: Maine Supreme Judicial Court

Citation: 2024 ME 42

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: LAWRENCE

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case involves Nicholas P. Lovejoy, who was convicted of intentional or knowing murder. Lovejoy appealed his conviction, arguing that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from an allegedly unlawful traffic stop and a subsequent warrantless search of his home. He also contended that the court abused its discretion in considering his mental state and post-crime conduct in its sentencing analysis.

Prior to Lovejoy's conviction, his case was heard in the trial court where he entered a conditional guilty plea. The court denied his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the traffic stop and the search of his home. Lovejoy was subsequently convicted and sentenced to forty-two years of incarceration.

In the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Lovejoy's appeal was reviewed. The court found that the traffic stop was supported by reasonable, articulable suspicion and that the warrantless search of his home was a reasonable response to what law enforcement knew at the time to be an exigent circumstance. The court also concluded that it did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Lovejoy. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's decision.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Commonwealth v. Lepage

Court: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Docket: SJC-12571

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: Georges

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

The case involves Brandyn Lepage, who was convicted of first-degree murder on the theory of felony-murder. Lepage shot and killed Aja Pascual in her car on September 29, 2012. The police obtained call logs from the victim's phone, which showed that Lepage had called the victim shortly before her death. The police also obtained Lepage's cell phone records, including call detail records, historical cell site location information (CSLI), and ping data, without a warrant. Lepage appealed his conviction and the denial of his motion for a new trial, arguing that the police illegally obtained his cell phone records.

The Superior Court Department had denied Lepage's pretrial motions to suppress the cell phone records. The court found that the police did not illegally obtain Lepage's call detail records and did not use the CSLI or ping data in the manner Lepage alleged. Lepage's motion for a new trial was also denied by the same judge who had previously denied his motions to suppress.

The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Lepage's conviction of murder in the first degree and the denial of his motion for a new trial. The court concluded that Lepage did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his call detail records, and therefore the police did not need a warrant to obtain this information. The court also found that the police did not use Lepage's CSLI or ping data to secure evidence against him. Therefore, the court concluded that there was no violation of Lepage's constitutional rights. However, the court vacated Lepage's conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm and remanded for a new trial on that indictment.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Hoehn

Court: Nebraska Supreme Court

Citation: 316 Neb. 634

Opinion Date: May 17, 2024

Judge: Freudenberg

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The case involves the defendant, Michael C. Hoehn, who was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) after a motion to suppress evidence from his stop and arrest was denied by the county court. The arresting officer, Officer Matt Rockwell of the Minatare Police Department, had left his primary jurisdiction after receiving a report of a white pickup driving erratically. Rockwell observed the pickup straddling the centerline and trash coming from the driver’s-side window. After the pickup turned into oncoming traffic and down into the grass median, Rockwell stopped the vehicle and identified the driver as Hoehn. Rockwell observed Hoehn had slurred speech, bloodshot, watery eyes, and detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the vehicle. Rockwell administered a preliminary breath test and other field sobriety tests, which Hoehn failed, leading to his arrest for DUI.

Hoehn appealed to the district court, arguing that Rockwell did not have jurisdictional authority to perform the traffic stop. The district court affirmed the conviction, interpreting Nebraska Revised Statute § 29-215(3)(c) to mean that when probable cause exists, officers have authority to perform stops and arrests outside of their primary jurisdiction that are solely related to enforcing laws that concern a person operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Hoehn then appealed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, which disagreed with the district court’s interpretation of § 29-215(3)(c) and found that Rockwell lacked jurisdictional authority to make the stop and arrest. However, the Court of Appeals held that under the good faith exception to the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule, Hoehn’s conviction, based on the evidence from his stop and arrest, did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article I, § 7, of the Nebraska Constitution. Both Hoehn and the State petitioned for further review by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, albeit on different grounds. The court held that a law enforcement officer’s jurisdictional power and authority to make a stop or arrest is irrelevant to the admissibility, under the Fourth Amendment and article I, § 7, of the Nebraska Constitution, of the evidence obtained from the stop or arrest. Therefore, the county court did not err in denying Hoehn’s motion to suppress brought under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and article I, § 7, of the Nebraska Constitution.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v Brown

Court: New York Court of Appeals

Citation: 2024 NY Slip Op 02765

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Troutman

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

In May 2017, police officers stopped a vehicle driven by the defendant, Jason Brown. The officers claimed they stopped the vehicle because they observed the passenger side door open and close quickly while the car was in motion, leading them to believe someone inside might need assistance. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officers smelled marijuana and subsequently discovered ecstasy in the defendant's possession. The defendant was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.

The defendant moved to suppress his statement and the physical evidence recovered, arguing that the stop was unlawful. The suppression court disagreed, concluding that the officers' concern for the safety of the passenger justified the stop, despite the absence of a traffic infraction or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Appellate Term affirmed the judgment, holding that the stop was justified based on considerations of public safety.

The New York Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court recognized a "community caretaking" function, which allows police to stop a moving vehicle under certain circumstances. However, the court held that the police may only stop a vehicle under this function if they can point to specific, objective, and articulable facts that would lead a reasonable officer to conclude that an occupant of the vehicle is in need of assistance, and the police intrusion must be narrowly tailored to address the perceived need for assistance. In this case, the court found that the officers' observation of the car door opening and closing once while the vehicle was in motion did not meet this standard. Therefore, the stop of the defendant's vehicle was unlawful, and the order of the Appellate Term was reversed.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v Estwick

Court: New York Court of Appeals

Citation: 2024 NY Slip Op 02768

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: RIVERA

Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Criminal Law

The defendant, Dwane Estwick, was convicted of first-degree and second-degree robbery following a jury trial and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by five years of post-release supervision. The defendant claimed that the prosecution failed to provide a race-neutral explanation for its peremptory strike of a prospective juror, K.S., an African-American female. The defendant argued that this failure constituted a violation of the Batson framework, which prohibits racial discrimination in jury selection, and thus, he was entitled to a new trial.

The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction (208 AD3d 799 [2d Dept 2022]). A Judge of the Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal (39 NY3d 1078 [2023]). The defendant reiterated his claim that the prosecution failed to provide a race-neutral explanation for its peremptory strike of K.S., thus violating the Batson framework.

The Court of Appeals of New York agreed with the defendant. It found that the defendant had established a prima facie case of discrimination regarding the prosecution's peremptory challenge against K.S. The burden then shifted to the prosecution to provide a race-neutral basis for its peremptory strike, which it failed to do. Instead, the trial court stepped in to provide an explanation, speculating that the prosecution had gotten a "bad vibe" from K.S. The court ruled that the prosecution had "given a legitimate race-neutral reason" for the strike. The Court of Appeals held that this was a serious departure from the Batson framework and constituted an error of the highest order. The court's speculation as to the prosecution's basis for the strike was irrelevant and deprived the defendant of any meaningful way to demonstrate pretext in the face of the prosecution's silence. As a result, the Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division order and ordered a new trial.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v Lively

Court: New York Court of Appeals

Citation: 2024 NY Slip Op 02767

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Troutman

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The case revolves around a parolee, Eugene L. Lively, who was searched by parole officers during a home visit in February 2021. The officers were looking for a parole absconder they believed might be at Lively's residence. During the search, an officer found a small case used for headphones in Lively's pocket, which contained heroin. Lively was subsequently charged with one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree.

Lively moved to suppress the physical evidence obtained from him. The suppression court denied his motion, ruling that the search was lawful as the parole officers were performing their duties. Lively was convicted of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance after a bench trial. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment in a split decision. The majority held that the search was substantially related to the parole officers' duties. Two dissenting justices argued that the search was unlawful as there was no evidence that it was related to Lively's status as a parolee or that he had violated his parole conditions.

The Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court held that the People failed to establish at the suppression hearing that the search of Lively's pocket was substantially related to the parole officers' duties. The court found that the People did not provide evidence that Lively was aware of the absconder's parole status, that he was harboring an absconder, or that he was violating his parole conditions. The court concluded that the search of Lively's pocket was not substantially related to the parole officers' duties under the circumstances, and thus, the evidence obtained should have been suppressed. The court ordered the reversal of the Appellate Division's order and the dismissal of the indictment.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v Nektalov

Court: New York Court of Appeals

Citation: 2024 NY Slip Op 02725

Opinion Date: May 16, 2024

Judge: SINGAS

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Government & Administrative Law

The defendant, Samual Nektalov, was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped by NYPD Detective Gregory Fortunato due to "excessively tinted windows." Upon approaching the vehicle, the detective observed marijuana in plain view and subsequently arrested and searched Nektalov, finding two bags of cocaine. Nektalov moved to suppress the drugs, arguing that the officers lacked probable cause to stop the vehicle based on a traffic violation.

The Criminal Court denied Nektalov's motion to suppress the drugs, ruling that the vehicle was properly stopped due to a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law for having excessively tinted windows. Nektalov pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. The Appellate Term affirmed the decision, with one Justice dissenting, holding that the detective's testimony sufficiently established probable cause to lawfully stop the vehicle due to an apparent violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower courts' decisions. The court noted that the Vehicle and Traffic Law generally prohibits operating a vehicle with windows that have a light transmittance of less than 70%. The court found that the detective's testimony that the windows were "excessively tinted" was effectively a legal conclusion that the tint violated the Vehicle and Traffic Law. However, the prosecution failed to elicit any factual basis for this conclusion. The detective did not testify that the windows were so dark that he could not see into the vehicle, that he had training and experience in identifying illegally tinted windows, or that he measured the tint after stopping the vehicle and the results confirmed that the tint level violated the law. As a result, the court concluded that the Criminal Court should have granted Nektalov's motion to suppress. The court reversed the order of the Appellate Term and dismissed the accusatory instrument.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

People v Watkins

Court: New York Court of Appeals

Citation: 2024 NY Slip Op 02842

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Halligan

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

In October 2016, 65-year-old David Pena was assaulted by a stranger on the street. Pena, who did not see his attacker's face during the assault, later identified Mark Watkins as the assailant. Watkins was subsequently convicted of assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. The only identification evidence presented at trial was Pena's testimony, who identified Watkins as his attacker and the person depicted in surveillance footage of the attack. The surveillance video, however, was too blurry to clearly depict the assailant's face.

Watkins appealed his conviction, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a cross-racial identification instruction. The Appellate Division affirmed the conviction, holding that Watkins' ineffective assistance of counsel claim was unreviewable on direct appeal because it involved matters not fully explained by the record. The panel also concluded that Watkins received effective assistance under the state and federal standards because he had not shown that it was objectively unreasonable for counsel to refrain from requesting a jury charge on cross-racial identification.

The Court of Appeals of New York affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that at the time of Watkins' trial in July 2017, there was no clear entitlement to a cross-racial identification charge. The court noted that while a cross-racial identification charge had been recommended by both the American Bar Association and the New York State Justice Task Force, the court's precedent had long vested the trial court with discretion over the content of an eyewitness identification charge. Therefore, the court concluded that the decision to forgo a request for the cross-racial identification charge was not the kind of "egregious" single error that rises to the level of ineffective assistance.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Copley

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 195A19-2

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Earls

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

In August 2016, Chad Cameron Copley shot and killed Kourey Thomas as he crossed Copley's front yard. Copley was charged with first-degree murder and claimed self-defense and defense of habitation. The jury rejected these defenses and convicted him. Copley appealed, arguing that the prosecutor improperly mentioned race during closing arguments. The Supreme Court of North Carolina found no prejudicial error in the prosecutor’s remarks and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to consider Copley’s remaining claims.

On remand, the Court of Appeals examined Copley’s three outstanding arguments. It rejected each, finding no gross impropriety in the prosecutor’s closing statements on the defense of habitation, no reviewable error in the trial court’s jury instruction on the aggressor doctrine and habitation defense, and no error in the jury instruction on first-degree murder by lying in wait. Copley challenged each of these rulings.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina found no gross impropriety in the prosecutor’s closing arguments and only invited error in the trial court’s instruction on the habitation defense. The court also found no prejudicial error in the instruction on first-degree murder by lying in wait. Therefore, the court modified and affirmed the Court of Appeals decision and upheld Copley’s conviction.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Giese

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 309PA22

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Earls

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics

In 2022, Walter D. Giese was charged with cyberstalking and making harassing phone calls to Sharon Griffin, the county manager for Onslow County, North Carolina. Giese moved to disqualify District Attorney Ernie Lee and his staff from prosecuting him, arguing that Griffin's role as county manager, which included overseeing the county's facilities and public services and proposing the county budget, created a conflict of interest. Giese contended that the prosecutors had a "self-interest" in appeasing Griffin, which could influence their decision-making in his case. The district court agreed and barred the Fifth Prosecutorial District from handling the case. The State challenged this decision, but the superior court upheld the disqualification order, finding a conflict of interest.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reviewed the superior court's order and vacated it, finding that the lower courts had erred in disqualifying the entire Fifth Prosecutorial District without finding an actual conflict of interest. The court clarified that an actual conflict of interest exists when the prosecution, by virtue of a prior attorney-client relationship, obtains confidential information that has been or is likely to be used to the detriment of the defendant. The court found that this was not the case here, as there was no evidence to suggest that anyone in the Fifth Prosecutorial District had ever represented Giese or obtained confidential information that could be used against him. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Jonas

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 433PA21

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Riggs

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Daniel Raymond Jonas was indicted for possession of a controlled substance after officers found methamphetamine in his car during a traffic stop. Jonas filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop and subsequent search of his vehicle. The trial court denied the motion. Jonas then pleaded guilty without a plea agreement, also known as an "open plea." He did not give notice of his intent to appeal before entering his guilty plea, but minutes after sentencing, his counsel gave oral notice of appeal on the record.

The Court of Appeals unanimously held that Jonas was not required to give notice of intent to appeal the denial of the motion to suppress prior to entering his guilty plea because he did not plead guilty pursuant to a plea agreement. The Court of Appeals also held that the stop of Jonas's vehicle was unconstitutional, and that the trial court erred when it denied Jonas's motion to suppress.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina was asked to extend the rule from State v. Reynolds, which requires a defendant to give notice of intent to appeal before finalizing plea negotiations, to cases where a defendant pleads guilty without a plea agreement. The court declined to do so, holding that when a defendant enters a guilty plea without a plea agreement, the defendant does not waive his or her right of appeal by pleading guilty without prior notice of intent to appeal. The court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Reber

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 138A23

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Dietz

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Juvenile Law

The case revolves around Joshua Reber, who was convicted for sexually abusing a young child. The child, K.W., testified in detail about the abuse, which began when she was eight years old. Reber admitted to taking K.W. into the woods alone at night without informing anyone but denied any sexual abuse. During his testimony, Reber also discussed his normal sexual relationships with adult women. The prosecutor cross-examined Reber about his text messages with a woman named Danielle, which indicated sexual encounters. Reber did not object to these questions.

The jury found Reber guilty, and he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 300 to 420 months in prison. Reber appealed, arguing that the admission of his cross-examination testimony and the prosecutor's statements during closing arguments were errors. The Court of Appeals reversed Reber’s convictions, holding that the introduction of the challenged evidence on cross-examination amounted to plain error and that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument were so grossly improper that the trial court should have intervened on its own initiative.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina disagreed with the Court of Appeals' decision. The court held that the admission of the cross-examination testimony was not plain error and that the prosecutor's statements during closing arguments were not so grossly improper that the trial court should have intervened. The court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for consideration of Reber’s remaining arguments.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Singleton

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 318PA22

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Berger

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed a decision by the Court of Appeals that had vacated a conviction for second-degree rape due to a perceived deficiency in the indictment. The defendant, Charles Singleton, had been convicted of second-degree forcible rape, first-degree kidnapping, and felonious restraint. On appeal, Singleton argued that the indictment failed to allege that he knew or should have known that the victim was physically helpless, an essential element of the crime. The Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the rape conviction.

The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that an indictment is sufficient to invoke a court's jurisdiction as long as it charges a defendant with violating the laws of the state. The court found that the indictment in this case clearly alleged a crime and was not required to allege actual or constructive knowledge of the victim's physical helplessness. The court also noted that the legislature has consistently acted to eliminate technicalities in criminal pleadings that impede justice. The court concluded that a mere pleading deficiency in an indictment does not deprive the courts of jurisdiction. The court therefore reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstated Singleton's conviction.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Stewart

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 23PA22

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Newby

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The defendant, a massage therapist, was accused of sexually assaulting a client during a massage session. The victim reported the incident to the police the day after it occurred, and the defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of second-degree forcible sexual offense and one count of sexual battery. The defendant pleaded not guilty and the case went to trial. The jury found the defendant guilty of sexual battery but not guilty of second-degree forcible sexual offense. The defendant was sentenced to sixty days in custody, which was suspended, and placed on twenty-four months of supervised probation. He was also ordered to surrender his massage therapist license and register as a sex offender.

The defendant appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the sexual battery charge because the indictment did not include the essential element of the offense being committed "by force." The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant, concluding that the indictment was invalid because it only expressly mentioned one of the essential elements of the crime.

The case was then brought before the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The court disagreed with the Court of Appeals, stating that the indictment was valid because it implied the use of force and provided the defendant with adequate notice of the charge against him. The court noted that nonconsensual sexual contact necessarily implies the use of some degree of force. Therefore, the court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that the indictment was facially valid and sufficiently alleged facts to place the defendant on notice of the charge against him.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Vann

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 157PA22

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Berger

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The defendant, Tevin Demetrius Vann, was found guilty of first-degree murder, murder of an unborn child, and robbery with a dangerous weapon. The case revolved around the murder of a woman, Ashley Ann McLean, who was found dead in a hotel room. Evidence pointed to the defendant, including text messages between him and the victim, surveillance footage of him entering and leaving the hotel, and his confession to assaulting the victim. However, the defendant later recanted his confession during the trial.

The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals after the trial court denied the jury's request to review partial transcripts of testimony from the lead detective, the medical examiner, and the defendant. The Court of Appeals granted a new trial, concluding that the trial court failed to exercise its discretion when it denied the jury's request to review the partial transcripts.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court found that the trial court did exercise its discretion when it denied the jury's request to review the partial transcripts. The court noted that the trial court had granted previous requests from the jury to review evidence and had instructed the jury that it was their duty to recall the testimony. The court concluded that the defendant failed to provide affirmative evidence that the trial court did not understand or properly exercise its discretion. Therefore, the court found no prejudicial error and reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Washington

Court: North Carolina Supreme Court

Docket: 34PA22

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Paul M. Newby

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case revolves around a defendant, Mack Washington, who was accused of sexually abusing his 12-year-old stepdaughter, N.M. The abuse was reported by N.M. to her mother, who then reported it to the police. During the investigation, N.M. revealed to a social worker that she had been sexually abused by another individual, a 15-year-old teenager, in the past. Washington was indicted on two counts of sexual offense with a child by an adult and six counts of indecent liberties with a child.

Before the trial, Washington sought to admit the portion of N.M.’s interview where she discussed the additional abuser, arguing that it did not fall under Rule 412’s definition of “sexual behavior” because it did not discuss “any specific sex acts.” The trial court denied the motion and excluded the evidence under Rules 401, 402, and 412 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence. Washington was found guilty of all remaining charges and sentenced to 332 to 478 months imprisonment.

On appeal, Washington argued that the trial court erred in excluding the interview because sexual abuse does not fall within the definition of 'sexual behavior’ under Rule 412. The Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that the plain language of Rule 412 does not speak to a consensual requirement and held that the trial court did not err in excluding the interview.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals. The court concluded that the language of Rule 412 is clear that all evidence of a complainant’s sexual behavior, other than the sexual act at issue, is irrelevant regardless of whether that sexual behavior was consensual or nonconsensual. Therefore, N.M.’s statements about the additional abuser in her SAFEChild interview constitute evidence of sexual behavior “other than the sexual act” committed by Washington in this case and were properly excluded.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State ex rel. Yeager v. Lake Cty. Court of Common Pleas

Court: Supreme Court of Ohio

Citation: 2024-Ohio-1921

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

Andre M. Yeager, an inmate at the Richland Correctional Institution, represented himself in a trial where he was found guilty of grand theft, breaking and entering, and vandalism. He was sentenced to an aggregate prison term of 39 months. Yeager appealed his convictions to the Eleventh District, arguing that the trial court erred by allowing him to represent himself. The Eleventh District affirmed the trial court’s judgment of conviction.

Yeager then filed an action in the Eleventh District, seeking a writ of prohibition to prevent the trial court from enforcing his convictions and a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate his convictions. He claimed that his case was improperly assigned to the trial-court judge, the trial court violated his right to counsel, and the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence. The Eleventh District dismissed Yeager’s complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the Eleventh District Court of Appeals’ judgment. The court found that Yeager had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law to raise his claims, as he had already exercised that remedy by filing a direct appeal from the trial court’s judgment of conviction. The court also found that the trial court did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction. Therefore, Yeager was not entitled to a writ of prohibition precluding the trial court from enforcing his convictions or a writ of mandamus vacating his convictions.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

LeFebvre v. State

Court: Rhode Island Supreme Court

Docket: 20-167

Opinion Date: May 21, 2024

Judge: Maureen McKenna Goldberg

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Family Law

Danielle LeFebvre was convicted of first-degree child abuse after her seven-week-old son suffered life-threatening injuries. LeFebvre claimed that her son's injuries were accidental, resulting from a fall from her bed. However, medical examinations revealed complex skull fractures, brain contusions, and rib fractures consistent with abuse. LeFebvre was sentenced to twenty years in prison, with eighteen years to serve and the balance suspended, with probation. She appealed her conviction, but it was affirmed.

LeFebvre then filed an application for postconviction relief, arguing that she was deprived of effective assistance of counsel. She claimed her trial counsel failed to consult and present a medical expert at trial and disclosed harmful information to the prosecution. The Superior Court denied her application, finding that her counsel's decision to disclose her medical records was a tactical one and that the absence of expert testimony did not deprive LeFebvre of effective assistance of counsel.

LeFebvre appealed to the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, which affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. The court found that while the disclosure of LeFebvre's medical records was objectively unreasonable, it did not deprive her of a fair trial given the overwhelming evidence of her guilt. The court also found that the failure to consult and present an expert at trial did not satisfy the criteria for ineffective assistance of counsel.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Brown

Court: Rhode Island Supreme Court

Docket: 22-63

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: Long

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

The case involves Marklyn Brown, who was arrested and indicted for a shooting that resulted in the death of Ms. Berta Pereira-Roldan. During his seven-hour interrogation at the Providence Police Department, Brown consistently maintained his innocence and expressed his desire to speak with his mother. After three hours of questioning, the police allowed Brown to speak with his mother. The conversation between Brown and his mother was recorded and listened to by the police without their knowledge.

The Superior Court heard Brown's motions to suppress the statements he made during the interrogation and the recorded conversation with his mother. Brown argued that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and his right under article 1, section 13 of the Rhode Island Constitution against self-incrimination were violated. He also argued that the surreptitious recording violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Rhode Island Constitution, and constituted an unauthorized wiretap pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 11-35-21. The trial justice suppressed both the interrogation and Brown's entire conversation with his mother, determining that Brown had a reasonable expectation of privacy when he spoke to his mother in the interview room.

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the order of the Superior Court. The court concluded that Brown had a reasonable expectation of privacy when he spoke with his mother in the interview room, and that the police violated Brown's Fourth Amendment rights as well as his rights pursuant to article 1, section 6 of the Rhode Island Constitution when they recorded his conversation with his mother. The court rejected the state's arguments that Brown did not possess a reasonable expectation of privacy because he did not ask for a private, unrecorded conversation, and that he lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in a police interrogation room.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

BALTIMORE v. STATE OF TEXAS

Court: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Docket: PD-0436-22

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: Newell

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The case revolves around an incident where the appellant, after spending time at a bar called the Crying Shame, retrieved his registered handgun from his motorcycle's saddlebag and placed it in his waistband. As he was about to leave, he was approached by three bar patrons, leading to a physical altercation in the parking lot. During the altercation, the gun was removed from the appellant's pants and thrown onto the bar's roof. The appellant was charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon, which was enhanced to a third-degree felony by alleging the offense occurred on a “premises” licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.

The trial court used the definition of “premises” from the Alcoholic Beverage Code in its charge to the jury, which included the grounds and all buildings, vehicles, and appurtenances pertaining to the grounds, including any adjacent premises if they are directly or indirectly under the control of the same person. The jury found the appellant guilty and he was sentenced to four years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which was probated for four years.

On appeal, the appellant argued that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the parking lot was part of the “premises” of the Crying Shame. The court of appeals initially affirmed the trial court’s judgment but later reversed the conviction on remand from the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, holding that the State’s evidence was legally insufficient to support the statutory enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas affirmed the court of appeals' decision, stating that the State did not provide legally sufficient evidence to support an enhancement element beyond a reasonable doubt. The case was remanded to the trial court for a new punishment hearing.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

HUGHES V. STATE OF TEXAS

Court: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Docket: PD-0164-22

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: WALKER

Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

The case involves Darren Tramell Hughes, who was on deferred adjudication community supervision. The State filed a motion to adjudicate guilt, alleging that Hughes had violated the terms of his supervision by committing two forgery offenses and failing to pay required fees. The hearing on the motion was conducted via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions. During the hearing, Hughes was muted several times when he attempted to speak. Hughes was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

On appeal, Hughes argued that his right to be present under the Due Process Clause was violated due to his muting during the hearing. The court of appeals reversed the decision, holding that his right to be present under the Confrontation Clause was violated, even though Hughes did not raise this issue in his brief. The court of appeals found that Hughes was turned into a passive observer, unable to communicate with his counsel and participate in his own defense.

The case was then brought before the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas. The court agreed with the lower court's decision that Hughes's right to be present was violated. However, it clarified that the right to be present under the Due Process Clause, not the Confrontation Clause, applies in hearings on motions to adjudicate guilt. The court further explained that this right is waivable, not forfeitable, and that Hughes did not waive this right. The court concluded that the trial court's action of muting Hughes was not harmless and affected his ability to defend himself. The judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

WOOD V. STATE OF TEXAS

Court: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Docket: AP-77,107

Opinion Date: May 22, 2024

Judge: Keller

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

In 1987, six young women and girls disappeared in El Paso, Texas, and were later found buried in shallow graves. In 1992, David Leonard Wood was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for these crimes. Since then, Wood has filed multiple motions for DNA testing, the first of which was granted in 2010. However, subsequent motions resulted in proceedings that stretched over a decade, with the trial court ultimately denying DNA testing in 2022.

In the lower courts, Wood's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal in 1995. He filed a state habeas application in 1997, which was denied in 2001. Over the years, Wood filed multiple motions for DNA testing, the first of which was granted in 2010. However, the remaining DNA motions resulted in proceedings that stretched over a decade, with the trial court ultimately denying DNA testing in 2022.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, Wood appealed the 2022 denial of testing. He raised six issues, only two of which directly addressed the question of whether he should have been granted DNA testing of biological evidence. The court concluded that none of Wood’s issues had merit and affirmed the trial court’s order. The court held that Wood failed to meet the second prong of Article 64.03(a)(2): he failed to show that his subsequent DNA testing requests were not made to unreasonably delay the execution of his sentence.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

State v. Carter

Court: Washington Supreme Court

Docket: 101,777-4

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: MONTOYA-LEWIS

Areas of Law: Criminal Law

The Supreme Court of Washington State reviewed two cases involving individuals, Kimonti Dennis Carter and Shawn Dee Reite, who were originally sentenced to mandatory life without parole (LWOP) for aggravated first-degree murders they committed between the ages of 18 and 20. Both Carter and Reite had served decades in prison and had demonstrated significant personal transformation and rehabilitation. They appealed to the court to affirm their determinate sentences, which had been granted by the superior courts at resentencing.

The superior courts had resentenced Carter and Reite to determinate sentences after a previous ruling by the Supreme Court of Washington State (In re Personal Restraint of Monschke) held that mandatory LWOP sentences were unconstitutional for individuals in their age group. The State appealed these resentencing decisions, arguing that the superior courts did not have the statutory authority to impose determinate sentences for aggravated first-degree murder.

The Supreme Court of Washington State affirmed the determinate sentences for both Carter and Reite. The court held that the superior courts had the statutory authority to impose determinate sentences for aggravated first-degree murder for Carter and Reite. The court also held that the superior court had the authority to resentence Carter on his other convictions. However, the court found that the superior court improperly imposed three years of community custody on Reite because this was unauthorized by statute for the crime of conviction. Therefore, the court affirmed the superior court that sentenced Carter and affirmed the superior court that sentenced Reite for all but the imposition of community custody. The court reversed and remanded to the superior court only for purposes of striking the community custody term for Reite.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

Benedict v. State

Court: Wyoming Supreme Court

Citation: 2024 WY 55

Opinion Date: May 23, 2024

Judge: Kate M. Fox

Areas of Law: Criminal Law, Family Law

The case involves Russell Patrick Benedict, who was convicted of sexually abusing his sixteen-year-old daughter, AB. During the investigation, Benedict's cellphone was seized, and a warrant was obtained to search its contents. However, the phone's contents were never searched as Benedict claimed he could not remember the passcode. After his conviction, Benedict filed a motion for the return of his and AB's cellphones. The State objected to the return of Benedict's phone, suspecting it contained nude photos of AB, which would constitute child pornography. The district court denied Benedict's motion without taking evidence on it, leading to an appeal.

The State conceded that the district court should have received evidence before ruling on Benedict's motion and requested a reversal and remand for the district court to receive evidence. The Supreme Court of Wyoming granted the State's motion and ordered the matter to be remanded to the district court for an evidentiary hearing on Benedict's motion.

The district court held the evidentiary hearing, during which the State argued against the return of Benedict's cellphone based on its earlier assertion that it likely contained child pornography. The district court found that the State had an interest in preventing the dissemination of child pornography and in preventing further trauma to AB. It concluded that the State had an interest in retaining Benedict's phone and denied Benedict's motion for its return. Benedict appealed this decision.

The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the district court's decision, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the State had met its burden of proving an interest in retaining Benedict's cellphone.

Read Opinion

Are you a lawyer? Annotate this case.

About Justia Daily Opinion Summaries

Justia Daily Opinion Summaries is a free newsletter service with over 65 newsletters covering every federal appellate court and the highest court in each U.S. state.

Justia also provides weekly practice area newsletters in 60+ different practice areas. All daily and weekly Justia Newsletters are free. You may request newsletters or modify your preferences by visiting daily.justia.com.

Please note that some case metadata and case summaries were written with the help of AI, which can produce inaccuracies. You should read the full case before relying on any summary for legal research purposes.

You may freely redistribute this email in whole.

About Justia

Justia’s mission is to make law and legal resources free for all.

More Free Upcoming Webinars

Please visit individual webinar pages for more information about CLE accreditation.

Justia

Contact Us| Privacy Policy

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn LinkedIn Justia

Unsubscribe from this newsletter

Justia | 1380 Pear Ave #2B, Mountain View, CA 94043


Unsubscribe from all Justia Newsletters