by
Defendant Melissa Robitille appealed her conviction for involuntary manslaughter for the death of her son. She argued that the trial court violated the Confrontation Clause when it restricted cross-examination of the State’s key witness; that the State produced insufficient evidence to support a conviction; and that the court erred in failing to provide a specific unanimity instruction to the jury. Defendant's thirteen-year-old son was born with severe birth defects; to ease his pain, defendant often placed alcohol in the son's feeding/water bag. The child died as a result of his medical condition and acute ethanol toxicity; his blood alcohol level was 0.146. Defendant alleged multiple errors at trial warranted reversal of her conviction. The Vermont found no such errors and affirmed her conviction. View "Vermont v. Robitille" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Erika Schapp appealed her conviction for refusing to submit to an evidentiary breath test to determine blood-alcohol concentration. Defendant argued: (1) the court erroneously admitted evidence of her refusal to take a preliminary breath test (PBT); (2) the State failed to meet its burden of proving the “reasonableness” requirement for criminal refusal beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) the State failed to prove that she refused the test. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Schapp" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a crime that started as an attempted robbery, and ended in the death of three individuals: the victim of the attempted robbery and two of the defendants' cohorts involved in that crime. A jury convicted defendant Steven Carter of one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted robbery. Defendant Michael Hall pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter, robbery, and an enhancement. Defendants raised separate sentencing challenges on appeal: Carter argued the court violated Penal Code section 654 when it sentenced him to consecutive terms for attempted robbery and first degree murder of the robbery victim; Hall argued the court abused its discretion in imposing a 12-year sentence under the terms of his plea agreement, and that errors were made in calculating his sentence. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in Hall's subsequent resentencing, but disagreed with Carter's and Hall's remaining sentencing challenges. California Senate Bill No. 1437 amended the murder statutes, sections 188 and 189, and enacted a new statute, section 1170.95 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015, sections 2-4), establishing procedures for eligible defendants to seek resentencing. The Court concluded Carter and Hall could not raise their claims in this appeal; they had to first petition the superior court for relief under section 1170.95. Judgment as to Carter was affirmed; judgment as to Hall was affirmed as modified. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for habeas relief relating to his alleged incompetence to stand trial on capital sentencing. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court erroneously granted a hearing on the merits of petitioner's claims and denied relief. The court denied a certificate of appealability (COA) because petitioner's claims were procedurally barred. In the alternative, petitioner's claims lacked merit because all of the evidence brought to bear in the district court on the issue of petitioner's competency in 1995 supported the conclusion that reasonable jurists cannot debate the denial of the Pate claim; reasonable jurists could not debate the district court's decision to reject the claim that counsel provided ineffective assistance; and the claim involving the district court's retrospective competency hearing was waived. View "Gonzales v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
At trial, petitioner Kenneth Wahl offered an acquaintance’s testimony given during grand jury proceedings, invoking the former-testimony exception to the hearsay rule. The superior court excluded the evidence, reasoning that the State did not have the same motive to develop the acquaintance’s testimony at grand jury. The court of appeals agreed. The Alaska Supreme Court, however, concluded the former-testimony exception did not require the opposing party to have had an identical motive to develop the testimony during the previous proceeding. Here, the prosecutor’s motives at grand jury and at trial were sufficiently similar to fit this exception. "But we affirm based on the superior court’s alternate rationale: The defendant did not establish that he had used reasonable means to secure the witness’s attendance, and thus the witness was not 'unavailable' — a requirement for the former-testimony exception to apply." View "Wahl v. Alaska" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate. Petitioner, a Bahamian boat captain, pointed a firearm at passengers on the boat whom he had agreed to smuggle into the United States. When the passengers said they could not swim, he forced them to jump, or pushed them, from his boat into deep water off the coast of Florida where three of them drowned. The court held that petitioner's two federal second degree murder convictions qualify as crimes of violence under both 18 U.S.C. 924(c)'s residual clause because it involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another and elements clause because a federal second degree murder offense is not materially different from Florida’s second-degree murder offense. View "Thompson v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Armando Mendez appealed his sentence after he pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He argued his sentence was improperly inflated because the district court held that a prior conviction for attempted robbery in Colorado qualified as a "crime of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's classification of defendant's Colorado crime, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Mendez" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Paul Spaulding appealed a superior court order that he be detained without bail pending resolution of charges against him. Defendant was charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence, one count of felony reckless conduct, and one count felony criminal threatening. At the arraignment, he pled not guilty. The superior court found through clear and convincing evidence, preventative detention was warranted and ordered defendant be detained. Defendant argued on appeal that there was a lack of proof of clear and convincing evidence of danger. After review of the superior court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with the superior court's judgment and affirmed it. View "New Hampshire v. Spaulding" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Laryssa Benner appealed a superior court decision imposing a deferred sentence. Defendant was originally sentenced to twelve months in the house of corrections for misdemeanor theft by deception. The sentence was deferred for two years with the trial court retaining jurisdiction up to and after the deferred period to impose or terminate the sentence. On appeal, defendant argued the procedures the trial court used in imposing her sentence violated her due process rights, and further erred in finding there was sufficient evidence she violated certain conditions of her deferred sentence. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "New Hampshire v. Benner" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit held that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was not impermissibly retroactive as applied to petitioner, because no adjustment-application was pending at the time of the reinstatement order, and his previous adjustment application was denied due to his failure to prosecute. The court held that petitioner's contention that his entry was lawful because he was allegedly waved through at an entry checkpoint was foreclosed by precedent. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Terrazas-Hernandez v. Barr" on Justia Law