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McDaniels was charged with murder after 23-year-old Traylor was shot and killed during a street fight in West Oakland. McDaniels’s defense was that he was not the shooter. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder and for being a felon in possession of a firearm and found true three firearm enhancements accompanying the murder count, including that McDaniels personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing death. The court sentenced McDaniels to 25 years to life for the murder, a consecutive term of 25 years to life for the discharge of a firearm causing death and a concurrent term of two years for the firearm possession. The court stayed terms for the other two firearm enhancements. The court of appeal rejected arguments that the trial court erred by denying a request for a pinpoint jury instruction about suggestive identification procedures and the prosecutor committed misconduct by commenting on McDaniels’s failure to testify. The court remanded for recalculation of custody credits, correction of the abstract of judgment, and in light of S.B. 620, effective January 1, 2018, which applies retroactively and vests sentencing courts with discretion to strike or dismiss firearm enhancements, including those imposed here. The record contained no clear indication that the trial court would not exercise its discretion to reduce McDaniels’s sentence. View "People v. McDaniels" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Misha Sanders pleaded guilty to two counts of commercial burglary and two counts of identity theft. Sanders discovered a credit card on the ground; the card belonged to someone else. Sanders used the card to obtain cigarettes and a beverage at a convenience store. She also obtained cash at a Burger King restaurant. The total amount of charges made by Sanders on the credit card were $174.61. In 2017, Sanders filed a petition under Proposition 47 (Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, section 1170.18) to reclassify all of her convictions as misdemeanors and to dismiss the identity theft counts. The trial court granted the petition as to the burglary counts, reasoning they qualified as "shoplifting" under section 459.5. The court denied the petition with regard to the violations of section 530.5. Sanders contended that since the burglary charges have been reclassified as misdemeanor shoplifting and the amount of goods taken from the merchants was under $950, the section 530.5 violations should have been considered petty thefts, be reduced to misdemeanors and dismissed. She asserted that in light of the court's opinions in California v. Page, 3 Cal.5th 1175 (2017) and California v. Romanowski, 2 Cal.5th 903 (2017), the Court of Appeal should find the violations of section 530.5 to be theft offenses and thus subject to the determination they amount to petty theft within the meaning of section 490.2. The Court found the violations of section 530.5(a) were not theft offenses: they are not specified in section 1170.18, and are not subject to reclassification under that section. Nor did the Court believe the decisions in Page and Romanowski compelled adoption of Sanders's interpretation. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "California v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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Ramirez, a citizen of El Salvador, first entered the U.S. in 1996 at age 17. Nearly 20 years later, Ramirez was placed in removal proceedings, charged with being present without being admitted or paroled under 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i). Ramirez applied for special rule cancellation of removal under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), 111 Stat. 2160, 2196–2199 (1997), which allows certain nationals from designated countries to apply for suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal and adjust their status to permanent residency. To qualify under NACARA, an alien ordinarily must establish at least seven years of continuous presence in the U.S. but an applicant who is inadmissible or removable for having committed a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) must establish at least 10 years of continuous presence after becoming inadmissible or removable. In 2012, Ramirez was convicted of petit larceny and obstruction of justice. The Board of Immigration Appeals found him ineligible for NACARA relief. The Fourth Circuit vacated the order of removal, holding that obstruction of justice under Virginia law is not a CIMT because it may be committed without fraud, deception, or any other aggravating element that shocks the public conscience. The court directed the government to facilitate Ramirez’s return to the United States to participate in further proceedings. View "Ramirez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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Former Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio was referred for criminal contempt in August 2016. The government obtained a conviction on July 31, 2017. On August 25, 2017, the President pardoned Arpaio, noting that Arpaio’s sentencing was “set for October 5, 2017.” On August 28, 2017, Arpaio moved “to dismiss this matter with prejudice” and asked the district court “to vacate the verdict and all other orders” plus the sentencing. On October 4, the district court dismissed with prejudice the action for criminal contempt. No timely notice of appeal order was filed. The Ninth Circuit denied a late-filed request for the appointment of counsel to “cross-appeal” the dismissal. The district court denied Arpaio’s second request and refused to grant “relief beyond dismissal with prejudice.” Arpaio filed a timely notice of appeal. In response to a request for the appointment of counsel to defend the order denying Arpaio’s request for vacatur, the government stated that it “does not intend to defend the district court’s order” and intends to argue, as it did in the district court, that the motion to vacate should have been granted. The Ninth Circuit appointed a special prosecutor to file briefs and present oral argument on the merits. View "United States v. Arpaio" on Justia Law

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David Buckham was convicted at trial of assault in the first degree and related charges in connection with a shooting. His appeal presented two questions of criminal procedure for the Delaware Supreme Court’s consideration: (1) the propriety of the trial court’s decision to call a recess at the State’s request so that one of the State’s witnesses, who was in the middle of testifying (and in the middle of recanting a statement he had given to investigators before trial) could consult with his lawyer; and (2) whether it was plain error for the trial court to uphold a warrant that authorized a search of “[a]ny and all store[d] data” on Buckham’s cell phone for any evidence of any kind that might link him to the shooting. Buckham was forbidden by the trial court from cross-examining the witness about what transpired during the consultation. He argued it was reversible error to allow it and a violation of his confrontation rights to bar him from cross-examining the witness about it. The trial court sustained the warrant despite recognizing that the only nexus the warrant application established between his phone and the shooting was that the phone might have contained GPS data that might have been useful to investigators. The search instead turned up some arguably incriminating Facebook messages Buckham contended should have been suppressed. The Supreme Court agreed the trial court’s decision to allow the State’s witness a midtestimony consultation with counsel was reversible error, and that the decision to uphold the warrant and admit the Facebook messages was plain error. The Court therefore reversed Buckham’s convictions and remanded for a new trial. View "Buckham v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Patrick Jackson appealed his conviction and sentence for one count of lewd contact with a minor, arguing the trial court erroneously found him competent to stand trial before taking his guilty plea and again before sentencing him. Numerous psychologists found him incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to be restored to competency because he suffered from a stable developmental disability which limited his capacity for understanding and communication. Hospital staff “drilled” Jackson until he could answer simple, concrete questions about the judicial system. As a result, in February 2010, the trial court found Jackson competent based on the staff report, then accepted his guilty plea. Before he could be sentenced, new psychological evaluations reported Jackson denying his guilt and not understanding he had pled guilty. The new report also questioned the basis of the report finding him competent. In June 2010, the trial court found substantial evidence Jackson was incompetent. Over a year later, and in the face of additional evaluations finding Jackson incompetent and unlikely to improve, the trial court again found Jackson was competent and sentenced him to three years in state prison. This time, the court based the competency finding on the contents of an evaluation Patton State Hospital staff had prepared nearly nine months earlier which simply copied the analysis from its early 2010 “drilling” report and failed to address any of the concerns raised thereafter. On appeal, Jackson argued neither his conviction nor his sentence should stand because neither competency finding was based on substantial evidence. The Court of Appeal agreed and therefore reversed the judgment. View "California v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Magdiel Sanchez-Urias pleaded guilty to illegally reentering the country after being deported. The court imposed a sentence that included a $1,000 fine. Defendant appealed, arguing that he could not afford the fine. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: defendant bore the burden to show that he lacked the assets to pay the fine. But he refused to provide financial information at his presentence interview, and the district court did not clearly err in finding on the record before it that Defendant had not established his inability to pay. View "United States v. Sanchez-Urias" on Justia Law

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Between August 2015 and May 2016, defendant Ryan Howard stole various pieces of laboratory equipment from Oklahoma State University (“OSU”) and transported them to his apartment in Texas. The equipment included thermocyclers, pipettors, chromatography machines, and centrifuges. While attempting to steal another chromatography machine in 2016, Howard was arrested and police officers executed a search warrant on his vehicle, recovering a set of bolt cutters and various pieces of laboratory equipment. In June 2016, investigators executed a search warrant on Howard’s residence in Texas, discovering many of the items Howard had stolen from OSU as well as equipment stolen from Northeastern Oklahoma State University. Investigators recovered most of the stolen items and returned them to the respective universities. Defendant entered a guilty plea on three counts of transportation of stolen property. During sentencing, Howard objected to the recommended restitution award for the second count, ordered under 18 U.S.C. 3663A. This appeal centered on whether the court correctly used the replacement cost as the restitution value and correctly determined the value of the returned property to be zero. The Tenth Circuit held that it did and affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant John Murphy appealed the dismissal of his second motion to vacate his sentence. Murphy pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and 5 years’ supervised release. Under 18 U.S.C. 924(a)(2), being a felon in possession of a firearm was ordinarily punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. But pursuant to the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Murphy received a sentencing enhancement because he had three previous convictions for violent felonies. Specifically, the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) advised that Murphy’s previous convictions for burglary (two in Oregon and one in Wyoming) were “burglaries” within the meaning of section 924(e), as defined by Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). Murphy did not object to the PSR, and the government and Murphy agreed at his sentencing hearing that he was eligible for the ACCA enhancement because his previous convictions matched Taylor’s definition of burglary. Murphy did not appeal his conviction or sentence. In 2009, Murphy filed his first 18 U.S.C. 2255 motion, alleging that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by not objecting to the classification of his burglary convictions as violent felonies, and urged the sentencing court to apply the categorical approach outlined in Taylor to determine if his previous convictions matched the generic definition of burglary. The district court denied his motion on the grounds that his previous convictions matched Taylor’s definition of burglary because in all three, “he made an unlawful or unprivileged entry into a building or structure, with the intent to commit a crime therein.” Murphy did not appeal from the district court’s denial of his motion. In 2016, Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) invalidated the ACCA’s residual clause. The Tenth Circuit authorized Murphy to file a second section 2255 motion. In the second motion, Murphy argued his sentence should be vacated because: (1) the state statutes for his previous convictions were broader than the generic definition of burglary; (2) if he was not sentenced under the enumerated offense clause, he must have been sentenced under the residual clause; (3) Johnson invalidated the residual clause, therefore his sentence should be vacated. The district court found Murphy’s argument failed at the first step because “the record is clear that Murphy’s ACCA enhancement was based upon the enumerated offenses clause - not the residual clause.” It consequently dismissed Murphy’s motion but granted a certificate of appealability on the issue. The Tenth Circuit found Murphy essentially “raises a poorly disguised Taylor claim rather than a true Johnson claim. … Murphy (unsuccessfully) argued in his first [section] 2255 motion that his previous convictions were not violent felonies under Taylor. Accordingly, the district court correctly dismissed his second [section] 2255 motion.” View "United States v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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For several weeks, Redman posed as a psychiatrist at a Chicago medical clinic using the name and license number of Dr. Garcia. He “treated” patients for mental illnesses, and “prescribed” controlled substances. Redman actually did not attend school past the tenth grade. Before commencing employment, Redman provided falsified documentation: an employment application, payroll application, I‐9 Employment Eligibility Verification form, W‐9 form, photograph of an Indiana driver’s license with Redman’s picture, photocopy of an Illinois medical license, photocopy of a medical school diploma, a residency certificate for training in psychiatry, and a photocopy of a social security card. He used online counterfeiting services; he submitted an online Drug Enforcement Administration application and obtained malpractice insurance using false information. He was discovered when the real Dr. Garcia learned that someone had used his medical license number to obtain a DEA registration. A jury found Redman guilty of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, furnishing false and fraudulent material information in documents required under the federal drug laws, and distributing controlled substances. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his 157-month sentence, upholding the application of two-level enhancements for use of sophisticated means and for conduct that involved a conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury. View "United States v. Redman" on Justia Law