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The Fifth Circuit denied movant's request for authorization to consider a successive motion to vacate his death sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255(h). The court held that movant's successive section 2255 motion presented only a single claim that was already presented in his original motion. In this case, movant was barred from relitigating his Atkins claim under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(1)'s strict relitigation bar, which the court incorporated into section 2255(h)'s scheme. View "In Re: Alfred Bourgeois" on Justia Law

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San Francisco Officers Vannucchi and Vidulich saw an SUV in front of their marked patrol car speed up and then “abruptly” stop in a red zone. A check showed the SUV’s registration was expired. Vidulich activated his lights. The SUV's driver, Mims, quickly got out of the car. Vidulich repeatedly asked Mims to get back into the SUV; Mims did not comply. As Vidulich approached, Mims stood “reaching back into the vehicle,” while Fews was in the passenger seat making “furtive movements ... low on his body.” Vidulich smelled “recently burned marijuana. Mims admitted there was marijuana in his cigar, then reached into the passenger compartment again despite being told not to. Fews continued his “furtive” movements. Vidulich believed that Fews might be reaching for something, possibly a weapon. The area is known for narcotics sales and related shootings. Fews complied with a command to exit the vehicle. Vannucchi performed a patsearch, thinking Fews’s baggy clothing could conceal a weapon. Fews’s pocket contained a loaded semiautomatic gun. A magistrate denied Fews’s motion to suppress, finding the officers had probable cause to search the SUV, and concluded that Vannucchi’s patsearch of Fews was justified for officer safety. Fews pleaded guilty as a felon in possession and was sentenced to probation. The court of appeal affirmed the denials of the motion to suppress and of a motion to dismiss in which Fews claimed a delay in obtaining police body camera video after the hearing denied him due process. View "People v. Fews" on Justia Law

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Rivera-Cruz pleaded guilty to distributing and possessing with intent to manufacture and distribute cocaine hydrochloride, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1). The drug quantities yielded a base offense level of 32. The Probation Office recommended a two-level firearm enhancement and a two-level obstruction of justice enhancement. Based on a total offense level of 36 and a criminal history category of VI, Rivera-Cruz’s Guidelines range was 324–405 months’ imprisonment but the offense carried a statutory maximum of 240 months’ imprisonment. The government moved for a "substantial assistance" downward departure and recommended a 215-month sentence. The court calculated the departure in terms of “offense levels as opposed to specific quantities of time,” settled on a five-level departure to an offense level of 31, and sentenced Rivera-Cruz to 188 months’ imprisonment. The Sentencing Commission later adopted Guidelines Amendment 782, retroactively reducing Rivera-Cruz’s base offense level by two, so that Rivera-Cruz’s Guidelines range would have been 262–327 months’ imprisonment, with the 240-month statutory maximum. Rivera-Cruz requested a sentence reduction, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2), citing Amendment 782. The Third Circuit affirmed denial of his motion. In 2018, the Supreme Court held that such relief is unavailable to a defendant whose Guidelines range is “scrapped” because of a statutory mandatory minimum sentence; the Third Circuit held that the same is true where a statutory maximum displaces the defendant’s Guidelines range. View "United States v. Rivera-Cruz" on Justia Law

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In 2008, a juvenile probation officer swabbed the cheek of Petitioner Ismael Casillas, then a juvenile, to collect a DNA sample. Colorado law required certain juvenile offenders to submit to collection of their DNA for testing. However, this requirement “shall not apply to an offender granted a deferred adjudication, unless otherwise required to submit to a sample pursuant to [C.R.S. section 19-2-925.6 (2018)] or unless the deferred adjudication is revoked and a sentence is imposed.” The probation officer’s collection of Casillas’s DNA violated section 19-2-925.6(1) because Casillas had been granted a one-year deferred adjudication and he was not otherwise required under the statute to submit a DNA sample. His genetic markers were nevertheless uploaded to the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Several months after Casillas successfully completed the terms of his deferred adjudication and his juvenile case had been dismissed, law enforcement investigators matched DNA evidence recovered from a stolen vehicle with the sample in the CODIS database taken from Casillas during his juvenile deferred adjudication. As a result of the DNA match, Casillas was identified and charged in connection with a carjacking. Before trial, Casillas moved to suppress all evidence derived from the DNA match, arguing that evidence derived from the unauthorized cheek swab should be excluded as the fruits of an unlawful search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied the motion, and a jury later convicted Casillas of criminal mischief. After review, the Colorado Supreme Court concluded the exclusionary rule required suppression of the evidence stemming from the probation officer’s unauthorized collection of DNA. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case with instructions to vacate Casillas’ conviction. View "Casillas v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Ryan Lee sued four Sheriff’s Deputies, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. On July 4, 2014, Lee and his wife, Tamila Lee, attended a barbecue where they consumed alcohol. After the couple returned home, an altercation broke out over a set of car keys. Tamila, in an attempt to keep her husband from driving, blocked him from exiting their home, and a physical struggle ensued. Deputies Mark O’Harold and Todd Tucker arrived first and entered the home with Tamila’s consent. Shortly afterward, Deputies Amanda Weiss and Chad Walker also arrived at the Lees’ home and separated the Lees for questioning. Lee was largely uncooperative. Tucker attempted to detain him, and another struggle broke out. O’Harold and Weiss, hearing a commotion, reentered the home. O’Harold applied an arm bar hold to Lee. Lee collided with the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator, and Weiss then struck him twice in the shoulder in an effort to force him to let go of the refrigerator. O’Harold also struck Lee twice in the neck. Tucker drew his Taser and applied it three to five times to Lee’s back, with each application lasting approximately three, five, and eight seconds respectively. Lee then lost consciousness. Throughout the incident, Walker observed but did not intervene. Weiss then handcuffed Lee and escorted him to Weiss’ squad car. Lee subsequently pled guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence. The district court granted the motion as to Lee’s First Amendment retaliation claim and the portion of his excessive force claim based on handcuffing, but denied it as to the remainder of his excessive force claim. The district court concluded that the facts remaining in dispute, when viewed in the light most favorable to Lee, precluded a grant of qualified immunity. Defendants appealed. The Tenth Circuit determined it lacked interlocutory appellate jurisdiction to review the district court’s determination of evidentiary sufficiency at the summary judgment stage. As to the purely legal challenge defendants raised on appeal, the Court concluded the district court correctly held that defendants used excessive force and did so in violation of clearly established law. The appeal was dismissed as to the factual challenges, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Lee v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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Appellant Johnathan Felton appealed his convictions related to the 2010 shooting death of Eric Wright. On appeal, appellant alleged the trial court improperly commented on the evidence in violation of former OCGA 17-8- 57. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his convictions. View "Felton v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Phillip Scott Kirby, Sr. was convicted of malice murder in connection with the stabbing death of Emily Mason. On appeal, he argued that his conviction should be reversed because: (1) the trial court erred in admitting custodial statements he made to GBI agents; (2) erred in admitting hearsay testimony about a marking on his wedding ring; and (3) erred in admitting evidence of other crimes he had committed. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Kirby’s convictions. View "Kirby v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Richard Davidson and Michael Denay Grant were tried separately by juries, and both were convicted of murder and the unlawful possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the attempted robbery and fatal shooting of Christopher Walker. Davidson and Grant appealed, each arguing the trial court erred when it admitted certain evidence at his trial. After review, the Georgia Supreme Court found error with respect to Davidson. However, the Court determined the trial court erred when it admitted a statement against Grant that law enforcement officers elicited from him in a custodial interrogation after he unequivocally invoked his constitutional right to remain silent, and the State failed to show that this error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in Davidson’s case, and reversed in Grant’s. View "Davidson v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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An Illinois jury convicted Czech of first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm for his role in a gang-related drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old bystander. Czech argued on direct appeal that his counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the felony murder instruction that was submitted to the jury in conjunction with a general verdict. The Illinois Appellate Court determined that the felony murder instruction violated Illinois law, but concluded the error was harmless. The Supreme Court of Illinois declined further review. The federal district court denied 28 U.S.C. 2254 relief, reasoning that, although the conviction violated clearly established federal law, the error did not have a substantial and injurious effect on the verdict. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In 2004, when the Illinois court affirmed the conviction, no Supreme Court precedent clearly established that a conviction entered on a general verdict was unconstitutional merely because the jury instructions included a legal theory that was invalid under state law Even subsequent law did not expressly hold that instructing a jury on multiple theories of guilt, one of which is legally improper, is a constitutional error. In addition, Czech is not entitled to relief because, even if constitutional error were shown, the error was harmless: a properly instructed jury would have delivered the same verdict. View "Czech v. Melvin" on Justia Law

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On November 22, 1997, around 1:30 a.m., Miles demanded money from brothers Maher and Ziad, outside of Maher’s Cincinnati Save-Way store. The brothers complied but Miles shot them with an assault rifle. Cincinnati police hypothesized that Issa, a Save-Way employee, hired Miles to commit the murders because Linda, Maher’s wife, offered Issa money to kill her husband. The state charged all three with aggravated murder. Miles refused to testify at Issa’s trial although he had testified in Linda’s trial. The prosecution had revoked Miles’s immunity the day before he was to testify. The court concluded that Miles was unavailable and allowed the admission of Miles’s out-of-court statements, through the testimony of siblings who were Miles’s teenage friends at the time of the murders. A jury acquitted Linda; Miles received a life sentence. Issa received a death sentence. In 2003, Issa filed his initial habeas petition. The district court denied relief but granted a certificate of appealability for grounds including failure to call Linda as a witness and admission of the siblings’ testimony about Miles’s hearsay statements. The Sixth Circuit ordered a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The admission of Miles’s hearsay statements violated the Confrontation Clause under then-governing Supreme Court law and was not harmless. The Ohio Supreme Court did not consider the “totality of the circumstances,” which show that the statements are not trustworthy. The statements were the only direct evidence implicating Issa in a murder for hire. View "Issa v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law