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After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that plaintiff was "actually innocent" of assault on a public servant in Texas court, he filed suit against the City and law enforcement officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff alleged a Brady claim against the City and the district court granted summary judgment in his favor. The Fifth Circuit reversed and dismissed the action with prejudice, holding that plaintiff's guilty plea precludes him from asserting a Brady claim under section 1983. View "Alvarez v. City of Brownsville" on Justia Law

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Appellant Qu’eed Batts was convicted of a first-degree murder that he committed when he was fourteen years old. The issue for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s review was whether the sentencing court imposed an illegal sentence when it resentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. After careful review, the Court concluded, based on the findings made by the sentencing court and the evidence upon which it relied, that the sentence was illegal in light of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). Pursuant to its grant of allowance of appeal, the Court further concluded that to effectuate the mandate of Miller and Montgomery, procedural safeguards were required to ensure that life-without-parole sentences were meted out only to “the rarest of juvenile offenders” whose crimes reflected “permanent incorrigibility,” “irreparable corruption” and “irretrievable depravity,” as required by Miller and Montgomery. The Pennsylvania Court recognized a presumption against the imposition of a sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender. To rebut the presumption, the Commonwealth bears the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the juvenile offender is incapable of rehabilitation. View "Pennsylvania v. Batts" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated defendant's 210 month sentence for conspiracy to distribute at least five kilos of cocaine. The court agreed with defendant that the district court erred by considering factors unrelated to his assistance when imposing the sentence. In this case, the district court abused its discretion by considering facts related to defendant's culpability for the charged conspiracy when determining the extent to which it would depart from the Guidelines' sentence. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Concha" on Justia Law

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There is no equal protection violation for the procedural difference between when a supervising agency files a petition to modify, revoke, or terminate a criminal defendant’s parole or postrelease community supervision, its petition must be accompanied by a written report containing information specified by statute and the California Rules of Court, and when a district attorney files such a petition, its petition need not be accompanied by such a report. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court correctly overruled the demurrer in this case. View "People v. Castel" on Justia Law

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In 2004, petitioner-appellant Wade Lay and his so Chris attempted to rob a Tulsa bank, the money from which was going to fund a patriotic revolution against the federal government akin to what the Founding Fathers had done. A bank security guard was killed in the process; the Lays did not get away with any money, and they were apprehended later that day. The Lays were tried together. Chris was represented by counsel; the elder Lay proceeded pro se. Both were found guilty by a jury. Chris received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Wade was sentenced to death. A district court stayed habeas proceedings pending a psychiatric evaluation for Wade. The Supreme Court decided Ryan v. Gonzales, and in response, the district court lifted the stay, found no evidentiary hearing was necessary following Wade’s psychiatric evaluation, and denied habeas relief. The Tenth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether the district court should have ordered a temporary stay of the underlying habeas proceedings until Wade Lay could be restored to competency. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Lay v. Royal" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Fifth Circuit remanded for further findings on the Brady and Giglio claim, holding that the district court clearly erred in concluding that the FBI Forms 302 (official interview memoranda) were not favorable. The court did not reach defendant's challenge to the forfeiture order, and otherwise rejected defendant's arguments. View "United States v. Colorado Cessa" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence, holding that his prior third degree robbery conviction under Oregon law was not a violent felony for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1). The panel explained that the term "physical force" as used in the Oregon statute is not coextensive with the term's use in the ACCA. View "United States v. Strickland" on Justia Law

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The department of corrections petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing a district court order denying Raymond Fetzer’s petition pursuant to C.R.C.P. 106(a)(2). Fetzer’s petition sought an order compelling the recalculation of his parole eligibility date, asserting that the department’s “governing sentence” method, which calculated his parole eligibility date solely on the basis of the longest of his concurrent sentences, violated the statutory requirement that his multiple sentences be treated as one continuous sentence. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for recalculation, reasoning both that, contrary to the department’s understanding, the statutory continuous sentence requirement applies to concurrent as well as consecutive sentences and that the department’s “governing sentence” method of calculation could not apply to Fetzer’s sentences because they were all subject to the same statutory parole provisions. Because Fetzer’s multiple sentences were not all subject to the same statutory parole provisions, as indicated in the court of appeals’ opinion, reference to a governing sentence, or some comparable means of determining the applicable incidents of his parole, may have remained necessary to the calculation of Fetzer’s parole eligibility date. The judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s order was therefore affirmed. Its remand order, directing the department to recalculate Fetzer’s parole eligibility date in accordance with its opinion, however, was reversed, and the case remanded with directions that it be returned to the district court. View "Exec. Dir. of the Colo. Dept. of Corr. v. Fetzer" on Justia Law

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In petitioner’s state capital murder trial, the court overruled counsel’s objection to a proposed jury and submitted the instruction to the jury, which convicted petitioner. Appellate counsel did instruction not challenge the jury instruction; petitioner’s conviction was affirmed. Petitioner’s state habeas counsel did not raise the instructional issue or challenge appellate counsel’s failure to raise it. The state habeas court denied relief. Petitioner then sought federal habeas relief. The Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed denial of relief. The ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel does not provide cause to excuse the procedural default of ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claims. Attorney error during state postconviction proceedings, for which the Constitution does not guarantee the right to counsel, cannot supply cause to excuse a procedural default that occurs in those proceedings except where state law requires a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel to be raised in an “initial-review collateral proceeding,” rather than on direct appeal or where the state’s “procedural framework, by reason of its design and operation, makes it unlikely in a typical case that a defendant will have a meaningful opportunity to raise” the claim on direct appeal. Extending the exception is not required to ensure that meritorious claims of trial error receive review by at least one state or federal court. A claim of trial error, preserved by trial counsel but not raised by counsel on appeal, will have been addressed by the trial court. View "Davila v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Appellant Windy Scott challenged her convictions for malice murder and a gun crime in connection with the shooting death of William Scott. Appellant claimed she was denied the effective assistance of counsel for her trial. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded Appellant’s trial counsel performed deficiently in not seeking expert assistance in evaluating her mental condition at the time of shooting and at the time of trial. However, Appellant did not show that but for this deficiency, there was a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial proceeding would have been more favorable to her. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Scott v. Georgia" on Justia Law