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Defendant-appellant Tanner Polk, an inmate at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, was found in his cell with eight small pieces of cut-up and numbered paper, along with a greeting card. The correctional officer had learned from other prison officers during routine training that a current trend in the prisons was the possession of methamphetamine-infused paper. A preliminary test at the prison revealed the presence of methamphetamine on one piece of paper and on a small corner of the greeting card. The paper was tested at a laboratory, and some of the papers were found to contain methamphetamine; the remainder of the greeting card tested negative. Defendant was found guilty of possession of methamphetamine while in prison. Defendant admitted he had suffered one prior serious or violent felony conviction. Defendant was sentenced to six years in state prison. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) insufficient evidence was presented to support that he possessed a usable amount of methamphetamine and he had knowledge that it was methamphetamine, to support his conviction of violating Penal Code section 4573.6; (2) the correctional officer should not have been allowed to testify as to whether the papers contained a usable amount of narcotics as his testimony was speculative and lacked foundation; (3) the trial court deprived defendant of a right to present a defense by refusing to allow him to properly address the quantity of methamphetamine found on the papers; (4) cumulative errors warrant dismissal; and (5) the trial court erred by denying his Romero motion to dismiss his prior strike conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed conviction. View "California v. Polk" on Justia Law

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Defendant Douglas McShane's teenage daughter ran away from home. At the daughter’s urging, three of her friends tried to steal defendant’s truck. Defendant stumbled across the theft in progress, chased the thieves, and after finding them in a nearby field, shot and killed one of them, a 15-year-old boy. As a result of these tragic events, defendant was convicted of second degree murder with an enhancement for personally and intentionally discharging a firearm, causing death. He was sentenced to a total of 40 years to life in prison. Defendant appealed, contending: (1) the trial court erred by failing to instruct on voluntary manslaughter on a heat of passion theory; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury that it could consider voluntary intoxication in determining whether defendant had the intent to kill; (3) under Penal Code section 1001.36, which became effective while this appeal was pending, defendant was entitled to a remand so the trial court could consider granting him pretrial mental health diversion; and (4) under Senate Bill No. 620 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.), which also became effective while this appeal was pending, defendant was entitled to a remand so the trial court could consider striking the firearm enhancement. The Court of Appeal agreed defendant was entitled to a remand for consideration of whether to strike the firearm enhancement. Otherwise, the Court found his other contentions lacked merit. View "California v. McShane" on Justia Law

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In 2000 John Doe was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Virginia. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with all time suspended, and a five-year term of probation. Under Virginia law Doe was required to register as a sex offender. Doe moved to Alaska in January 2003. On January 6, 2003, he registered as a sex offender. On April 11, 2003, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) wrote Doe indicating that he had to register annually in January of each year. He did so in 2004 and 2005. On February 4, 2005, DPS wrote Doe stating that he was required to register quarterly, for life. DPS noted that Doe’s Virginia conviction “has essentially the same elements as sexual assault [first] degree (AS 11.41.410), which is an aggravated offense that requires quarterly verification of your sex offender registration information.” This appeal presented two questions concerning the Alaska Sexual Offender Registration Act (ASORA): (1) whether ASORA’s registration requirements could be imposed on sex offenders who moved to Alaska after committing sex offenses elsewhere; and (2) whether ASORA violated due process by requiring all sex offenders to register without providing a procedure for them to establish that they do not represent a threat to the public. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded ASORA’s registration requirements could constitutionally be applied to out-of-state offenders. The Court also concluded ASORA violated due process, but its defect could be cured by providing a procedure for offenders to establish their non-dangerousness. View "John Doe v. Alaska, Department of Public Safety" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ronald Detro Winder was serving a three-year prison sentence for possession of firearms by a convicted felon. He appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that his prior conviction in Wyoming for felony interference with a peace officer in 2012, was a crime of violence under section 4B1.2(a)(1) (2016) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Winder" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for assaulting a United States Postal Service employee in violation of 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1). The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not err by preventing defendant from presenting a voluntary-intoxication defense because such a defense was unavailable to defendants being charged under section 111(a)(1) where assaulting a federal employee was a general intent crime. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction. The court also held that Condition 5 of defendant's supervised release was broader than the condition the district court imposed orally. Because it was not clear from the sentencing transcript and other portions of the record exactly how long the district court intended the alcohol-prohibiting condition to apply or whether that issue was moot, the court reversed and remanded for the district court to clarify its position. View "United States v. Gustus" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a superior court order that set aside a jury’s guilty verdict against defendant Jonathan Marden for one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The trial court concluded defendant’s trial counsel, who was not his appellate counsel, rendered ineffective assistance of counsel when he failed to object to the testimony of the State’s expert witness, Dr. Gwendolyn Gladstone, a physician specializing in the care of abused or neglected children. The trial court found that, even though Gladstone did not explicitly opine that the complainant had been sexually assaulted, her testimony ran afoul of New Hampshire's general prohibition against offering expert testimony "to prove that a particular child has been sexually abused." The State argued that, even if trial counsel’s conduct fell “below the range of reasonable professional assistance” when he failed to object to Gladstone’s testimony, there was no prejudice. The State argued Gladstone’s testimony was merely cumulative of the testimony by the complainant’s co-workers about the complainant’s emotional state immediately following the alleged assault. The State contended “Gladstone’s testimony simply established that the [complainant] was still having an emotional reaction to the event.” To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed, concluding Gladstone’s testimony and the inferences that could have been drawn from it — that she believed that the complainant had been sexually assaulted — were not cumulative of the other demeanor evidence because Gladstone, unlike the other trial witnesses, was recognized as an expert. Defense counsel’s failure to object to Gladstone’s testimony on New Hampshire v. Cressey grounds (137 N.H. 402 (1993)) cannot reasonably have been said to have been part of a trial strategy. Therefore, the Court concluded trial counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient, and affirmed the superior court's order. View "New Hampshire v. Marden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) on appeal and affirmed the circuit court's order granting Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief on the ground that the trial court's failure to conduct a colloquy with Defendant when accepting a stipulation to elements of the charged offense was plain error. Defendant was charged with drug-related crimes. During trial, the parties entered into a stipulation to elements of the charged offenses. The jury subsequently convicted Defendant on both charges. Defendant later filed a petition to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment asserting that his constitutional rights to a fair trial were violated when the circuit court failed to conduct an on-the-record colloquy with him regarding his waiver of the right to proof of an element of a charge before accepting the stipulation. The circuit court granted the petition and ordered that a new trial be held. The ICA vacated the circuit court's order granting the petition. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the trial court's failure to conduct an on-the-record colloquy with Defendant before accepting the stipulation establishing an element of the charged offenses was plain error. View "Grindling v. State" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of sexually exploiting a minor through the production of child pornography. The court held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a five-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 4B1.5(b)(1), because he engaged in a pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct. The court also held that defendant's 240 month sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, ultimately determining that the nature of defendant's offense outweighed any age-related concerns. View "United States v. Fox" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief and partial grant of summary judgment for the Government regarding petitioner's claim that USCIS should have exercised jurisdiction over his application for asylum. The court held that the improper inclusion of irrelevant documents in the administrative record and its subsequent supplementation with relevant documents did not prejudice petitioner and any errors on the part of the Government in this respect were harmless; USCIS's decision not to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner's asylum claim was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law; and petitioner's habeas petition was moot because he did not otherwise argue that any meaningful relief could be granted to him via a habeas petition. View "Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey" on Justia Law

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Justin Hoskins appealed a district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. In September 2016, Idaho State Trooper Spencer Knudsen observed a Pontiac Grand Am driving with a cracked windshield and pulled it over. He asked the driver for the vehicle’s registration and insurance as well as identification for the vehicle’s three occupants. The identification revealed that Jovette Archuleta was the driver of the vehicle, Amber Alvarez was seated in the passenger’s seat, and Hoskins was seated alone in the back seat. dispatch informed Trooper Knudsen that the vehicle’s license plates actually belonged to a Chevrolet Malibu registered to Archuleta. Dispatch also notified Trooper Knudsen that all of the vehicles’ occupants had prior drug convictions. Returning to the Pontiac, Trooper Knudsen asked Archuleta to step out of the car to speak with him. Once she had, he questioned her about whether the car contained anything illegal. After she stated that she didn’t believe so, Trooper Knudsen asked for permission to search the car. Alvarez gave her permission to search the vehicle. Before searching the vehicle, Trooper Knudsen directed Hoskins to get out of the backseat, instructing Hoskins to leave his personal items on the backseat. During the search, Trooper Knudsen found marijuana and methamphetamine. Hoskins was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with a sentencing enhancement based on a prior drug conviction. Hoskins promptly filed a motion to suppress the evidence taken from the traffic stop. The State argued Hoskins lacked standing to object to the search based on consent and the district court denied the motion on that basis. On appeal, all parties agreed the district court’s ruling on standing was erroneous. Nevertheless, the State argued the district court’s decision could be affirmed based on the plain-view doctrine. Hoskins objected and argued the State forfeited this argument by failing to raise it below. Hoskins prevailed at the Court of Appeals and the Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s timely petition for review. The Supreme Court did not consider the State's plain-view argument on appeal because the issue was not preserved for review: "Devising a 'correct' theory for the first time on appeal does not give the State a legal mulligan when it concedes that its original theory did not carry the burden below. The same logic holds true for the State’s argument regarding exceptions to the exclusionary rule." The Court reversed the district court's denial of Hoskins' motion to suppress, vacated his judgment of conviction and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Hoskins" on Justia Law