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In 1991, 70-year-old Cary was shot and killed as she made a night deposit of the receipts from the liquor store where she worked. Davis, Taylor, Shackelfoot, and Lawless had planned the robbery. Davis attempted the robbery and shot Cary while the others waited in a car driven by Taylor. A jury convicted Taylor of first-degree felony murder and found that the killing occurred in the commission of an attempted robbery that he aided and abetted “as a major participant” and “with reckless indifference to human life,” a special circumstance requiring a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (Penal Code 190.2(d)). The reckless indifference finding was based on the fact that after the shooting, Taylor simply drove off, later stating, “Fuck that old bitch.” In 2018, Taylor sought habeas corpus relief to have the special circumstance vacated under the California Supreme Court’s “Banks” and “Clark” decisions, which clarified what it means for an aiding and abetting defendant to be a major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life. A defendant acts with reckless indifference to human life when he “knowingly creat[es] a ‘grave risk of death.’” The court of appeal granted his petition. Evidence of a defendant’s actions after a murder betraying an indifference to the loss of life does not, alone, establish that the defendant knowingly created a grave risk of death. There was no other evidence that Taylor had such intent. . View "In re Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for filing three false tax returns and obstructing a grand jury proceeding. The court held that the district court properly instructed the jury on the nexus requirement. However, the jury's determinations pursuant to that instruction were based on the substantial evidence presented at trial. Therefore, because the jury was properly instructed and found defendant guilty based on ample and substantial evidence, the court upheld his conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions related to the course of his trial. View "United States v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

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Defendant Lucio Lozano was charged with involvement in a multi-year cocaine trafficking conspiracy between individuals in Mexico and Colorado. In October 2017, defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was subsequently sentenced to 180 months imprisonment and five years supervised release. He challenged the district court’s application of two sentencing enhancements: (1) a two-level guidelines increase for maintaining a premise for the purpose of distributing a controlled substance, and (2) a three-level aggravated role enhancement. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence. View "United States v. Lozano" on Justia Law

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Petitioner James Burke sought post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging that his trial counsel, Attorney Daniel Maguire, provided ineffective assistance because of a conflict of interest. Burke was arrested in 2005 for sexual assault; he was arraigned in 2005, and his trial commenced in 2010. During the time between his arraignment and trial, petitioner filed nearly 200 motions, the vast majority of which were filed pro se in writing and orally on the record. These included motions to disqualify three trial court judges, a motion to disqualify a prosecutor, and nineteen motions for sanctions. Petitioner also expressed discontent with various appointed counsel at multiple points in pretrial proceedings. During discovery, he requested, was provided with, and then dismissed appointed counsel. Then, midway through depositions in 2009, petitioner once again requested and was provided with appointed counsel. Attorney Maguire ultimately represented petitioner at trial. Throughout pretrial proceedings, the trial court reprimanded petitioner many times for his disruptive language and behavior. In April 2008, defendant allegedly threatened the deputy state’s attorney after a day of depositions and was arrested for obstruction of justice. During a hearing in 2009 when petitioner again sought to dismiss his appointed counsel, the trial court questioned whether petitioner was competent to proceed pro se. Based in part on psychiatric evaluations in 2004 and 2006, the trial court ultimately determined that petitioner was competent to stand trial. However, it concluded that given his previous misconduct, it would be “naive to expect that [petitioner] would control himself were he to represent himself during trial.” And because the right to self-representation is not absolute, the trial court found that petitioner had forfeited his right to represent himself through his continued disruptive behavior. During jury draw, outside of potential jurors’ presence, Attorney Maguire expressed his desire to withdraw as petitioner’s counsel, citing threats of physical violence to himself and his family. The trial court denied Attorney Maguire’s motion to withdraw, but allowed a deputy sheriff, described as a legal assistant, to be seated between Attorney Maguire and petitioner throughout the trial. Petitioner was ultimately convicted and sentenced to eighteen to twenty years to serve. Petitioner filed his pro se motion for postconviction relief in February 2013. In March 2015, Attorney Paul Volk, an expert appointed by the trial court and compensated by the Defender General, filed an expert-opinion report with the PCR court after an independent legal review wherein he explained that he found ineffective counsel for some, but not all, of the reasons alleged in petitioner’s original petition. However, the post-conviction court denied relief. The Vermont Supreme Court found no reversible error in the PCR court's judgment and affirmed. View "In re James Burke" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for habeas relief. The court held that a prisoner bringing a successive section 2255 petition must show that it is "more likely than not" that the sentencing court relied on the residual clause to prove that his claim "relies on" Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 2563 (2015). In this case, petitioner failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he was sentenced under the residual clause and therefore his claim relies on Johnson. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. Clay" on Justia Law

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Devin Arrington was indicted by grand jury for armed robbery. After jury selection, Arrington requested a continuance to allow him to retain new counsel, which was denied. During his attorney’s opening statement, Arrington interrupted and declared that he did not want his counsel to continue representing him. After a jury trial, Arrington was found guilty. Arrington filed a Motion for J.N.O.V. or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial. Both motions were denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Arrington’s conviction for armed robbery. Arrington abandoned each of his arguments on appeal by failing to make them: failing to cite authority, or failing to identify the arguments for review. "Even if Arrington’s claims were not abandoned, Arrington’s arguments are either without merit or are based on facts not fully apparent from the record." View "Arrington v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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A jury found Jason McGrath guilty of four counts of sexual battery by a person in a position of trust and one count of touching a child for lustful purposes, charges stemming from McGrath’s sexual assault and molestation of his stepdaughter, M. M. He was sentenced to forty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, McGrath argued the trial judge wrongly admitted Rule 404(b) evidence of McGrath’s previous sexual assaults and molestations of a different stepdaughter and his adopted daughter. The Mississippi Supreme Court found there were several legitimate purposes supporting these admissions, and saw no abuse of discretion in these rulings. View "McGrath v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not err in determining that defendant's prior conviction for robbery in violation of Arkansas Code Annotation Section 5-12-102 was a crime of violence for purposes of career offender sentencing under USSG 4B1.1. The court held that Arkansas robbery has the same elements as the generic definition of robbery, which involves the use or threat of physical force upon another. View "United States v. Stovall" on Justia Law

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Marc McKee was convicted by jury on four counts of possessing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The Court of Appeals reversed those convictions on the ground that the warrant police used was overbroad in order to obtain the underlying cell phone photos and videos. Instead of remanding for suppression of that evidence, the appellate court ordered all counts dismissed, meaning retrial was barred. Though the appellate court provided no reason to justify that remed, the Washington Supreme Court determined the lower court thought dismissal was warranted because once the cell phone evidence was suppressed, there would be insufficient evidence to sustain the convictions in a second trial. The State appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed: the proper remedy following suppression of the cell phone evidence was to vacate McKee's convictions and remand for further proceedings. View "Washington v. McKee" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Washington charged Jason Catling with two counts of delivery of heroin. Pursuant to a plea deal, Catling pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the other, and to recommend a residential drug offender sentencing alternative (DOSA). During the sentencing hearing, Catling's attorney argued that because Catling's sole source of income was Social Security disability benefits, the trial court should not impose any legal financial obligations (LFOs), including mandatory obligations, based on the Washington Supreme Court's decision in City of Richland v. Wakefield, 380 P.3d 459 (2016), which had just issued the day before Catling's sentencing hearing. The trial court took the LFO matter under advisement, finding Catling's sole source of income were benefits totaling $753 per month. The trial court ultimately issued an order imposing LOFs totaling $800, finding LFOs could be ordered when a person was indigent and whose only source of income was social security disability. The Court of Appeals held that the particular obligations imposed here did not violate the federal antiattachment statute, but remanded for clarification of the payment order. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in part, holding that the trial court erred in imposing a $200 filing fee on Catling. Further, the case was remanded to the sentencing court for a determination of whether Catling previously provided a DNA sample; if so, then the trial court's imposition of a $100 DNA collection fee was in error. The Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of the $500 crime victim fund assessment, but remanded for the trial court to revise the judgment and sentence and repayment order to comply with HB 1783, and to indicate the LFO could not be satisfied out of Catling's Social Security benefits. View "Washington v. Catling" on Justia Law