Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner was granted a certificate of appealability (COA) to address whether the district court abused its discretion in failing to grant relief to petitioner on his claims for denial of the right to a speedy trial, on claims of violation of due process based on the suppression of evidence, and on the claim that he was entitled to substitute counsel. Petitioner had pleaded guilty to the offense of injury to a child and received a twenty-year sentence. The Fifth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction over the appeal but did not reach the merits on the grounds that petitioner, on appeal, has waived any argument related to the issue upon which he was granted appellate review. View "Webb v. Davis" on Justia Law

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McCann was charged with forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object (Pen. Code 289(a)(1)(A) and other offenses arising from his attack of Kevin in McCann’s hotel room. Preliminary hearing testimony showed that McCann and Kevin had been drinking before the incident. Kevin had no memory of what happened to him. After the attack, Kevin appeared “beat up pretty bad”; his injuries included a broken nose, ruptured bladder, and torn rectum. He was required to use a colostomy bag for months afterward. The trial court dismissed count 1, finding no evidence that Kevin’s will was overcome by physical force. The court of appeal reversed, noting Kevin’s testimony that he did not consent and would not consent to having anything inserted in his anus; McCann’s admissions to witnesses that he put either a jagged steel bar or a wooden broomstick or handle in Kevin’s rectum, that he whacked Kevin over the head, and that he caused Kevin’s injuries and kicked him so hard McCann broke his own foot; and the nature of Kevin’s injuries. The court rejected McCann's argument that the “sexual penetration of Kevin here was not accomplished by force, but rather, by taking advantage of Kevin’s intoxication or unconsciousness.” View "People v. McCann" on Justia Law

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Rosemond v. United States, 572 U.S. 65, 67 (2014), announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review. Nonetheless, the Eleventh Circuit held that petitioner was not entitled to relief under Rosemond, because the evidence at trial was sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer that he had advance knowledge his co-conspirators would use or carry firearms during the underlying crime of violence. The court also held that aiding and abetting a carjacking qualifies as a crime of violence under the elements clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A). Therefore, the court held that United States v. Davis, 588 U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2336 (2019), does not affect petitioner's section 924(c) conviction. Furthermore, the court held that counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to the jury charge, which lacked an instruction on advanced knowledge. Finally, the court declined petitioner's request for remand, holding that the district court's order regarding a certificate of appealability (COA) effectively denied a COA regarding petitioner's jury-instruction claim. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his sentence. View "Steiner v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court judgment adjudicating Defendant a probation violator and a superior court order denying Defendant's motion to terminate imprisonment, holding that the hearing justices did not act arbitrarily or capriciously or err in denying Defendant's motions. Defendant pled guilty to first-degree sexual assault and assault with a dangerous weapon. Subsequently, Defendant pled nolo contendere to charges of failing to register as a sex offender. Later, a hearing justice adjudicated Defendant a probation violator by failing to keep the peace and be of good behavior. While his first appeal was pending, Defendant filed a pro se motion to terminate his sentence of imprisonment, asserting that the requirements of R.I. Gen. Laws 12-19-18(b)(5) were satisfied under the facts of his case. The hearing justice denied Defendant's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding that Defendant had violated the terms of his probation; and (2) the second hearing justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to terminate his imprisonment because there was ample evidence to support the conclusion that section 12-19-18(b)(5) was inapplicable to the instant case. View "State v. Murray" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Appellant's motion for reconsideration and vacated its decision in State v. Braden, __ N.E.3d __ (Ohio 2018) (Braden I), holding that Ohio Rev. Code 2947.23(C) grants a sentencing court jurisdiction to waive, suspend, or modify the payment of the costs of prosecution imposed prior to the statute's effective date. In Braden I, the Supreme Court held that the General Assembly did not expressly make section 2947.23(C) retroactive and that, with respect to costs imposed before the statute's enactment, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to reconsider its own final order. The Court then granted Appellant's motion for reconsideration and vacated its decision in Braden I, holding that neither section 2947.23(C) nor this Court's precedent precludes trial courts from waiving, suspending, or modifying court costs imposed before the effective date of section 2947.23(C). View "State v. Braden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court overruling Defendant's motion to suppress evidence relating to a traffic stop, holding that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to make an investigatory stop. In affirming the trial court, the court of appeals determined that the discrepancy between the color in the vehicle's registration and the actual color of the vehicle was sufficient to raise the officer's suspicion to that vehicle was either stolen or that the license plate had been taken from another vehicle. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when a police officer encounters a vehicle that is painted a different color from the color listed in the vehicle registration records and the officer believes that the vehicle or its license plates may be stolen, the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity and is authorized to perform an investigative traffic stop. View "State v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals granting the writ of mandamus sought by Appellant concerning certain public records Appellant had requested but denied the writ concerning others, holding that because Appellant did not comply with Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(B)(8) Cleveland Police Forensic Laboratory (CPFL) had no clear legal duty to produce the records identified in the first part of Appellant's request. The court of appeals denied the writ as to the first part of Appellant's request, determining that Appellant had not obtained court approval before requesting public records concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution, as he was required to do under Ohio Rev. Code 149.43(B)(8). The court noted that section 149.43(B) did not apply to the second part of Appellant's request, which did not seek records concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Appellant did not obtain court approval as required by section 149.43(B)(8), the court of appeals properly denied the first part of his request. View "State ex rel. Ellis v. Cleveland Police Forensic Laboratory" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice of the Court denying Appellant's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that principles of double jeopardy did not bar Appellant's retrial, and therefore, the single justice neither erred nor abused its discretion in denying relief. Appellant was indicted for murder in the first degree and arson in a dwelling. After the jury deadlocked, Appellant's jury trial ended in a mistrial. Appellant subsequently moved to dismiss the indictments, arguing that the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence at his first trial to warrant a conviction with respect to either charge, and therefore, principles of double jeopardy barred his retrial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient for a rational jury to convict Appellant of murder in the first degree, as well as arson in a dwelling. View "Coggins v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant Robert Wehr was convicted of receiving a stolen vehicle under Penal Code section 496d(a). Before his sentencing, Wehr moved to designate his conviction a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. The trial court denied his motion and sentenced him to a total of nine years in state prison, including sentence enhancements. Wehr challenges the court’s denial of his motion. He argues that his offense was eligible for misdemeanor treatment under section 496 if the value of the stolen vehicle did not exceed $950. The Court of Appeal agreed with Wehr that, after the passage of Proposition 47, receipt of a stolen vehicle was eligible for misdemeanor treatment under section 496, assuming that the vehicle was worth $950 or less. The Court thus reversed his felony conviction for violating section 496d. On remand, the State could: (1) accept reduction of this conviction to a misdemeanor; or (2) retry him for a felony violation of section 496d. The Court affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "California v. Wehr" on Justia Law

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Walker, a Stateville Correctional Center inmate, has an incurable motor neuron disease, primary lateral sclerosis (PLS). PLS causes weakness in his voluntary muscles. Walker alleges that Stateville’s healthcare providers (Wexford and Dr. Obaisi) were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs after he underwent spinal surgery in 2011. Walker claims they failed to ensure he received proper follow-up care and allowed undue delays in his treatment by outside experts, which delayed his diagnosis and caused him to suffer from the undiagnosed PLS in the interim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Dr. Obaisi made a reasonable medical judgment to delay referring Walker until he had more information and could make a more informed referral request. Obaisi responded to Walker’s changing symptoms and was receptive to the specialists’ recommendations. That Walker’s pain and other symptoms did not subside is not evidence of Obaisi’s deliberate indifference, considering that Walker voluntarily stopped taking pain medication. Obaisi did what he could within the limits of his role to move Walker’s treatment forward. Wexford refers many inmates, and the specialists have a finite number of appointments available. Absent evidence that Wexford was on notice that these wait times were likely to cause constitutional violations, but failed to act in response, Wexford cannot be liable. View "Walker v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law