Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for first degree burglary, assault with a firearm, and kidnapping. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of kidnapping and rejected defendant's contention that making the victim move 190 feet, from her bedroom to the front of her house, was a trivial distance; the trial court had no duty to give an attempted kidnapping instruction where there was no evidence that defendant committed anything less than kidnapping; and defendant forfeited his claim under People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, because he did not object to the fines and fees at issue. View "People v. Newman" on Justia Law

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Deionta Ivory was convicted on counts of armed robbery and kidnaping. Ivory’s trial attorney moved ore tenus for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), but he did not make a post-trial motion for a new trial. On appeal, Ivory argues that the verdicts were contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and he requests a new trial. He contends that his ore tenus motion for JNOV should be construed as a motion for a new trial because the motion challenged the weight of the evidence. In the alternative, Ivory argues that, if the issue was not preserved, his trial court attorney’s failure to move for a new trial constitutes ineffective assistance of counsel. In denying Ivory's request, the Mississippi Supreme Court the ore tenus motion was not a motion for a new trial, and Ivory's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not warranted. "While the trial attorney’s omission did constitute deficient performance, Ivory suffered no prejudice because his convictions were supported by the overwhelming weight of the evidence." View "Ivory v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion and remanded with instructions to grant the motion. The panel held that defendant's first degree armed robbery in violation of Oregon Revised Statutes 164.415 is not a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The panel held that United States v. Strickland, 860 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir. 2017), which held that Oregon third degree robbery is not a violent felony under the force clause of the ACCA because it does not require physically violent force, is not clearly irreconcilable with Stokeling v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 544 (2019), which addressed a Florida robbery statute that requires resistance by the victim that is overcome by the physical force of the offender. Finally, even assuming that section 164.415(1) is divisible, the district court erred in finding that defendant had been convicted of armed robbery under subsection (b). View "United States v. Shelby" on Justia Law

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As a felon in possession of a firearm, Wright had three prior convictions for “serious drug offenses,” and qualified as an armed career criminal. A Maryland district judge accepted his plea and gave him the 15-year minimum sentence. Wright did not dispute his Armed Career Criminal Act status, nor did he appeal. Wright unsuccessfully challenged his sentence after the Supreme Court decided, in Johnson, that ACCA's “residual clause” was unconstitutionally vague. Wright’s argument had nothing to do with Johnson or the residual clause, which did not concern drug offenses. After the Supreme Court’s 2016 Mathis decision, Wright was subject to “second or successive” habeas motions limitation, 28 U.S.C. 2255(h). Wright's second habeas corpus petition, filed in the district court where he is imprisoned, was dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. In the Sixth Circuit, a federal prisoner who has already filed a section 2255 motion and cannot file another one, cannot use section 2241 to seek relief just because a new Supreme Court case hints his conviction or sentence may be defective. The prisoner must also show that binding adverse precedent (or some greater obstacle) left him with “no reasonable opportunity” to make his argument either when he was convicted and appealed or when he sought postconviction relief. Wright had several opportunities to raise his “Mathis claim,” free of any procedural impediments or hostile precedents. He cannot now use the saving clause to get "another bite at the apple." View "Wright v. Spaulding" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court convicting Appellant of murder in the first degree and battery in the first degree, holding that the circuit court did not err when it denied Appellant's request to instruct the jury as to the lesser-included offenses of murder in the second degree, extreme emotional distress manslaughter, and battery in the second degree. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give Appellant's proffered second-degree murder instruction because there was no rational basis for doing so; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by deciding not to give the extreme emotional disturbance manslaughter instruction; and (3) the circuit court did not err when it refused to instruct the jury as to second-degree battery. View "Dixon v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for first-degree battery and possession of a firearm by certain persons but remanded with instructions to correct the sentencing order, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by limiting Defendant's cross-examination of the victim. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in not allowing Defendant to ask six questions during the victim's cross-examination because Defendant failed to proffer the answers that he hoped to elicit on cross-examination and because the answers were not otherwise apparent from the contradictory context; (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial; and (3) because the sentencing order misidentified an offense, the matter must be remanded for the court to correct the sentencing order. View "Perkins v. State" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Burtner, a 65-year-old veteran, went to deposit VFW receipts at a Midlothian bank. A teller saw Burtner approach and saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt walk quickly behind him. After briefly losing sight of both men, she saw the hooded man run in the opposite direction, carrying something. The man (Smith) got into the passenger seat of a black car driven by Brown; the car sped off. A bank employee found Burtner lying on the ground. After a high-speed police chase, the car crashed. Smith and Brown ran in opposite directions. Police found Brown minutes later hiding underneath a car and recovered $1200 in cash from his pocket; they recovered the bank deposit bags and money from inside the car. DNA evidence linked the car to Smith. Three days later, Burtner died. The medical examiner reported that the cause of death was a heart attack and that the assault was a significant contributing factor. After separate trials, the court acquitted defendants on a felony murder charge but convicted them of robbery and aggravated battery of a senior citizen in which they caused great bodily harm, after merging the other aggravated battery counts. The court imposed consecutive sentences based on the nature of the crimes and defendants’ lengthy criminal histories. The appellate court vacated their convictions for aggravated battery of a senior citizen, citing the one-act, one crime rule. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The convictions were based on separate acts and are not lesser-included offenses. Not all the elements of aggravated battery of a senior citizen are included in the offense of robbery, and the aggravated battery offense contains elements that are not included in robbery. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Custer had already been convicted of several crimes when entered an open plea of guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance in 2010. Before his sentencing hearing, Custer was arrested again after an attack on a police officer and for possession of a knife while threatening people at a bar. Based on his many convictions involving “crimes of violence,” and being the subject of “a multitude” of protective orders sought by different women, the court sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment for the drug crime. In 2013, Custerer entered a negotiated guilty plea to the charges of aggravated battery of a police officer and unlawful possession of a weapon; the court imposed consecutive sentences of 4½ years and 5 years in prison and dismissed the remaining charges. Custer filed a pro se post-conviction petition, alleging that his private counsel in the 2010 drug case, Hendricks, was ineffective for failing to appeal or move to withdraw his guilty plea as requested. Appointed post-conviction counsel (Snyder) filed a supplemental petition, with four affidavits from Custer and his girlfriend, Colvin. Hendricks acknowledged telling Custer he had a “good chance” of receiving no more than four years in prison but he had explained that entering an open plea would make it difficult to challenge his sentence. He denied that Custer expressed a desire to appeal or withdraw his plea. Before the court entered an order, Custer sent the judge a letter claiming that Snyder failed to provide adequate representation by refusing to call Colvin as a witness. Stating that it found Custer’s testimony totally unbelievable, the court denied relief. After a hearing for which Custer was absent and Snyder appeared but did not present argument, the court denied a motion to reconsider. Custer filed a second post-conviction appeal, arguing the court erred in denying his reconsideration request without conducting a Krankel hearing. The appellate court acknowledged that Krankel has never been extended to post-conviction proceedings, but remanded. The state appealed. The Illinois Supreme Court declined to expand its holding Krankel, which established procedures to protect a pro se criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of trial counsel. Extending those procedures to similar claims of unreasonable assistance by post-conviction counsel in statutory proceedings commenced under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act would be an unwarranted drain on judicial resources. View "People v. Custer" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the pretrial diversion of Defendant, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the language of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276A, 3 requires arraignment, at the Commonwealth's request, before a defendant can participate in a pretrial diversion program. Defendant was charged with assault and battery. After Defendant's initial appearance before a judge she moved to continue her arraignment sot hat she could be assessed for eligibility for pretrial diversion. The judge continued the arraignment over the Commonwealth's objection and also ordered, as a condition of release, that Defendant stay away from the alleged victim. Thereafter, the judge determined that Defendant was eligible for pretrial diversion and imposed conditions of release. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for further proceedings, holding (1) under the pretrial diversion statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276A, 3, a judge may not decline to arraign an adult defendant, over the Commonwealth's objection, and instead direct the defendant to a pretrial diversion program; and (2) whether during the screening period prior to arraignment or thereafter if the Commonwealth does not seek arraignment, a judge may order conditions of release, including GPS monitoring by the probation service. View "Commonwealth v. Newberry" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Jesus Humberto Mejia of attempted premeditated murder, burglary, robbery, street terrorism, and firearm possession. The jury also returned true findings on associated weapon and street gang allegations. In bifurcated proceedings, the trial court made true findings on prior conviction allegations. Mejia contended the court improperly instructed the jury on premeditated attempted murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Mejia also raised sentencing issues, which the Attorney General conceded. The Court of Appeal agreed the premeditation and deliberation special finding had to be reversed. With respect to sentencing, the Court first agreed with the parties that the trial court erred in imposing the full 10-year sentence for the gun-use enhancement. Second, the Court acknowledged and agreed with the parties that a recent change in the law required this case be remanded to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion to strike the five-year prior conviction enhancement imposed pursuant to Penal Code section 667(a)(1). Finally, the Court ordered the trial court to correct numerous clerical errors on the abstract of judgment and minute order (brought to our attention by the Attorney General). In all other respects, the Court affirmed judgment. View "California v. Mejia" on Justia Law