by
Defendant was convicted of aggravated arson, arson of a structure, arson of an inhabited structure, possession of flammable material, and second degree burglary arising from the 2011 burning down of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the crimes of arson of an inhabited structure and arson of a structure under Penal Code section 451, subdivisions (b) and (c), respectively, are forms of the same offense of simple arson. Therefore, defendant was erroneously convicted of both crimes and the court reversed his convictions on counts 2 and 5. The court remanded for the People to elect on which count they want to proceed. Finally, the court held that defendant can commit aggravated arson without necessarily committing arson, whether of a structure or an inhabited structure. View "People v. Shiga" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's two convictions for using his car in an assault with a deadly weapon. The court held that substantial evidence supported defendant's conviction where he raced across an intersection without breaking and defendant's relationship with his victims was immediate; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding no discoverable documents from in camera proceedings; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's second Pitchess motion requesting personnel records of two additional deputies; the abstract of judgment must be corrected for errors; because defendant's case was not final when Senate Bill No. 1393 took effect and is not final now, the court remanded for the trial court's discretion as to the felony enhancement; and defendant's Duenas issues were forfeited. View "People v. Bipialaka" on Justia Law

by
After the district court dismissed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for being untimely filed, it granted a certificate of appealability as to whether the one-year limitations period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) for filing the section 2254 petition was tolled by petitioner's state court motion to reduce sentence under Rule 4-345 of the Maryland Rules. In light of Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545 (2011), the Fourth Circuit held that the limitations period was tolled during the pendency of the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion. Like a motion to reduce sentence under Kholi's Rhode Island Rule 35, the court explained that a Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence was not part of the direct review process and undoubtedly called for review of the sentence. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Green" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to a single count charging him with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a prohibited person: an alien unlawfully in the United States. The district court did not err by applying a base offense level of 20, because defendant was a prohibited person at the time of the offense and the offense involved a semiautomatic firearm in "close proximity" to a high-capacity magazine under USSG 2K2.1, App. Notes 2. In this case, defendant's locked Colt AR-15 was in a gun case in his bedroom, and high-capacity magazines were in a gun-range bag no more than ten feet away. View "United States v. Gordillo" on Justia Law

by
At 3:31 a.m., East St. Louis Police Officer Sherrod received a report of a vehicle playing loud music. Approaching the vehicle, Sherrod saw Cherry looking for something in the grass. Cherry stated that he was looking for the key to his tire rims. Although Cherry seemed intoxicated, Sherrod decided to help him. As he was searching, Sherrod noticed a handgun a few feet from Cherry. Sherrod handcuffed Cherry for officer safety, without arresting him. Cherry tried to run. Sherrod then arrested Cherry and took him the police station where Cherry told Officer Simon that, earlier that night, he had stopped his car to pick a CD and thought that he saw an acquaintance. After rolling down his window, he realized that he did not know the person, who had a gun; Cherry knocked it out of the man’s hands. The stranger then fled. Cherry explained that during the scuffle he lost his cell phone and got out of the car to look for it. He admitted to picking up the gun. Cherry was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1); 924(a)(2) for forfeiture, 18 U.S.C. 924(d)(1). Cherry requested an “innocent possession” instruction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Cherry’s conviction, declining to recognize an innocent possession defense. Even where the defense is recognized, it applies only where the defendant immediately surrenders the firearm to law enforcement. No reasonable juror could have failed to find a nexus between the gun and Cherry’s conviction, so the court’s failure to ask whether either party wanted the jury to determine forfeitability of the firearm did not affect Cherry’s substantial rights. View "United States v. Cherry" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief as to the penalty phase, because petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance by not investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase. Applying de novo review, the panel held that counsel did not properly investigate petitioner's background, and thus the trial court at the penalty phase was not presented with substantial mitigation evidence regarding petitioner's education and incarceration, his diffuse brain damage, and his history of substance abuse. The panel held that this raised a reasonable probability that, had the trial court been presented with the mitigation evidence in the first instance, the outcome would have been different. In this case, petitioner may have been spared the death penalty and been imprisoned for life instead. Accordingly, the panel remanded with instructions to grant relief against the death penalty. View "Washington v. Ryan" on Justia Law

by
Over seven years, Dr. Greenspan referred more than 100,000 blood tests to Biodiagnostic Laboratory, which made more than $3 million off these tests. In exchange, the Lab gave Greenspan and his associates more than $200,000 in cash, gifts, and other benefits. A jury convicted Greenspan of accepting kickbacks, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7(b)(1)(A); using interstate facilities with the intent to commit commercial bribery, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(1), (3); honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346; and conspiracy to do all of those things. The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing the evidence of his guilt as overwhelming. The district court erred in instructing the jury that Greenspan had to “demonstrate” the prerequisites for an advice-of-counsel defense; in excluding as hearsay some of his testimony about that legal advice; in asking only Greenspan’s counsel, not Greenspan personally, whether he wished to speak at sentencing; and in limiting the scope of the defense to five particular agreements rather than all eight, but all of those errors were harmless. The court properly excluded evidence that the blood tests were medically necessary. That evidence was only marginally relevant and risked misleading the jury. View "United States v. Greenspan" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Douglas Couthren was convicted by a jury of felony driving while intoxicated. The jury also found that, during the commission of the offense, Appellant used or exhibited a deadly weapon: a motor vehicle. The court of appeals affirmed the jury’s deadly weapon finding. Appellant claimed the court of appeals erred in upholding the deadly weapon finding absent evidence that he operated his vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner. After review, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found there were no facts to support an inference that Appellant was operating his vehicle in a manner that was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. The court of appeals erred in upholding the deadly weapon finding absent evidence that Appellant operated his vehicle in a reckless or dangerous manner. Therefore, the Court held the evidence insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant’s vehicle was used or exhibited as a deadly weapon during the offense of driving while intoxicated. The Court reversed only that part of the court of appeals’ judgment which affirmed the deadly weapon finding and reformed the trial court’s judgment to delete it. View "Couthren v. Texas" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Katherine Saintil-Brown was convicted by jury for negligent homicide,criminal neglect of an elderly adult, and failure to report adult abuse. Defendant’s convictions were based upon her failure to call for help while her elderly mother, the victim, lay in her own waste on the floor of their shared home for multiple days. On appeal, defendant argued the evidence was insufficient for the jury to have convicted her of the three charges. She also argued the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the criminal neglect of an elderly adult charge and that this error required reversal of her conviction on that charge. As to the jury instruction issue, the State agreed the trial court’s instruction was erroneous and that the error was plain, but asserted the error did not require reversal. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire .v Saintil-Brown" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed her sentence imposed after she pleaded guilty to participation in an identity-fraud conspiracy. The Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's sentence and held that the district court committed plain error in its application of the ten-or-more-victims enhancement under USSG 2B1.1 cmt. n.4(E) because, contrary to United States v. Hall, 704 F.3d 1317 (11th Cir. 2013), the district court counted as a victim any individual whose means of identification was stolen regardless of whether it was "used" as a means of identification. However, the district court did not plainly err in applying the loss amount enhancement. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Corbett" on Justia Law