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Williams was lying on the sidewalk while his friends smoked and otherwise violated Santa Cruz Municipal Ordinances. Williams interfered and physically resisted officers when they attempted to issue citations. The officers used force. Williams was charged with delaying, obstructing, or resisting a police officer engaged in the lawful performance of his duties (Penal Code 148(a)(1)). During deliberations, the jury asked: “If a peace officer is correctly conducting duties ... If a 148(a)[(1)] violation occurs ... If then, subsequent to the violation, excessive force is used, does this invalidate the 148(a)[(1)] violation?” The court responded “NO.” The jury found Williams guilty. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the court did not err in responding to the jury question. If a defendant delays, obstructs, or resists a police officer who is engaged in the lawful performance of his duties, the defendant may be convicted of violating section 148(a)(1) even if the officer uses excessive force after the completed violation. The court rejected an argument that the jury was erroneously instructed that Williams could be convicted of violating section 148(a)(1) if it found that he stepped in front of an officer who was writing a citation because there was no evidence that Williams thereby delayed, obstructed, or resisted the officer. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Rudolfo Nuno hit a person with his car, causing serious injuries. He drove a few blocks away and called 911 to report the incident. He was later charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, making a criminal threat, and felony hit-and-run. The jury convicted him only of hit-and-run and acquitted him of the remaining charges. The court sentenced him to a middle term of two years after finding him presumptively ineligible for probation under Penal Code section 1203 (e)(2) as a person "who used or attempted to use a deadly weapon upon a human being in connection with the perpetration of the crime of which he . . . has been convicted." Nuno argued on appeal the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support hit-and-run because he called for assistance soon after the incident. He also claimed the trial court erred at sentencing in finding him presumptively ineligible for probation and not finding this an "unusual case[]" entitling him to probation "in the interests of justice." While the Court of Appeal determined there was sufficient evidence to support Nuno’s conviction, it remanded for resentencing because the court erroneously believed Nuno to be presumptively ineligible for probation. View "California v. Nuno" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first degree murder and sentencing him to death following a second penalty proceeding, holding that there was no error requiring reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Ireland merger doctrine did not bar Defendant’s convictions for torture murder and mayhem murder; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions for torture murder and rape murder; (3) the trial court’s admission of gang affiliation evidence during the guilt phase of trial was harmless; (4) the evidence supported the special circumstance findings of torture murder and mayhem murder; (5) the jury’s finding that Defendant was sane at the time of the killing did not require reversal; (6) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s possible gang affiliation and racist beliefs during the penalty phase; (7) imposition of the death penalty on a mentally ill defendant does not violate the Eighth Amendment; and (8) Defendant’s constitutional challenges to California’s imposition of the death penalty failed. View "People v. Powell" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Peppers was indicted for numerous federal firearms and drug offenses, including murder with a firearm. After a trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. On remand, Peppers pleaded guilty as an armed career criminal in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). The charging document stated that Peppers had previously been convicted of felonies in six separate proceedings. Peppers was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment--the mandatory minimum under the Armed Career Criminal Act. In his second habeas petition, Peppers challenged that sentence, citing the Supreme Court’s “Johnson” decision, which invalidated ACCA’s residual clause. The district court denied relief. The Third Circuit vacated. The jurisdictional gatekeeping inquiry for successive section 2255 motions based on Johnson requires only that a defendant prove he might have been sentenced under the now-unconstitutional residual clause, not that he was actually sentenced under that clause. A Rule 11(c)(1)(C) guilty plea does not preclude a defendant from collaterally attacking his sentence if his sentence would be unlawful once he proved that ACCA no longer applies to him. A defendant seeking a sentence correction in a successive section 2255 motion based on Johnson, who uses Johnson to satisfy the section 2255(h) gatekeeping requirements, may rely on post-sentencing cases to support his claim. Peppers’s convictions under Pennsylvania’s robbery statute, are not categorically ACCA violent felonies. Peppers did not prove his Johnson claim with respect to his Pennsylvania burglary conviction. The court remanded for analysis of whether treating the robbery convictions as predicate offenses under ACCA, was harmless in light of his other convictions. View "United States v. Peppers" on Justia Law

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At issue in this criminal case was (1) whether a witness’s statement that another witness “would not tell the truth about certain things[,]” was admissible as a personal opinion about that witness’s character for truthfulness; and (2) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting a witness’s testimony about out-of-court threats the complainant made during an argument with Defendant. A jury found Defendant guilty of sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree assault. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the trial court erred by prohibiting a witness’s testimony regarding the complainant’s truthfulness because character evidence was relevant to the proceeding, and the witness had an adequate basis to offer the opinion; and (2) the trial court erred in excluding the witness’s testimony that the complainant, during a fight, was saying things that she could do to get Defendant in trouble because it was offered as nonhearsay impeachment evidence offered for the fact that the statement was made. View "Devincentz v. State" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 240 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography. The court held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court carefully considered several factors when deciding to impose the statutory maximum sentence, as recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines. In this case, the district court considered that the plea deal allowed defendant to escape a longer sentence for sexually exploiting his girlfriend's thirteen year old daughter; defendant's distribution of child pornography; and defendant's lack of violent criminal history and demonstrated remorse. The court also held that the special condition of supervised release prohibiting defendant from viewing or possessing erotica or pornographic materials was not constitutionally vague or overbroad under the court's precedents. View "United States v. Sebert" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's three year sentence for violating his supervised release conditions. In this case, while defendant was on supervised release for a burglary covered by the Major Crimes Act, he had several encounters with police and eventually admitted to using marijuana. The court held that defendant's sentence did not exceed the statutory maximum because his original crime, burglary, was a Class B felony under 18 U.S.C. 3559(a)(2). The court also held that defendant's three year revocation sentence was within the statutory maximum provided by 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3). View "United States v. Steele" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 60 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to firearm offenses. The court held that defendant's New York conviction for attempted second-degree robbery was a crime of violence under the force clause of USSG 4B1.2(a); any error was harmless where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and stated that it would have imposed the same sentence regardless of its ruling on the crime of violence issue; the district court did not err by imposing three criminal history points for the offense based on its determination that this was an adult conviction, and any error was harmless; and any error in using the 2015 rather than the 2016 Sentencing Guidelines Manual was harmless because the relevant provisions were identical in the two versions. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Harrington was convicted in 2009 of seven drug offenses, including conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute heroin and at least 50 grams of cocaine base, resulting in death (Count 1); and distributing heroin, resulting in death (Count 7). Citing 21 U.S.C. 841 and 851, the government filed notice that Harrington was subject to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment by reason of a 2002 felony drug conviction. The district court sentenced Harrington to concurrent terms of life in prison on Counts 1 and 7, and 360 months on each remaining count. In 2014, the Supreme Court held, in Burrage, that where use of the drug distributed by the defendant is not an independently sufficient cause of the victim’s death or serious bodily injury, a defendant cannot be liable under the penalty enhancement provision unless such use was a but-for cause of the death or injury. Harrington unsuccessfully sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. In 2017, Harrington filed a second petition. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit vacated. Harrington’s claim is properly construed as one of actual innocence. Because Burrage is retroactive, Harrington is entitled to an evidentiary hearing to determine whether it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him, if given the proper jury instruction. View "Harrington v. Ormond" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for murder in the first degree on a theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and declined to exercise its authority to grant relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E, holding that Defendant’s argument that he was entitled to a new trial for several reasons was unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant was not deprived of the right to present a defense based on the judge’s exclusion of an out-of-court statement to police made by the only eyewitness to the altercation a few hours after the fight; (2) the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in excluding so-called Adjutant evidence, including an unavailable witness’s recorded statement to police and other evidence of the victim’s violent conduct; and (3) Defendant’s right to a fair trial was not violated by the trial judge’s failure sua sponte to conduct a recusal analysis. View "Commonwealth v. Deconinck" on Justia Law