Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of government authorization to administer antipsychotic medication to defendant involuntarily for the sole purpose of restoring her competency for trial. The court held that all four Sell factors support the administration of the antipsychotic medication because the government's interest in bringing to trial an individual accused of a serious crime is important; involuntary medication will significantly further those interests; the involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests; and administration of the drugs is medically appropriate. In this case, the administration of Risperdal Consta is medically appropriate and defendant's case does not present any of the recognized risk factors for side effects linked to Risperdal Consta, which itself has fewer serious side effects than do earlier generation antipsychotics. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

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In 2014-2015, Flint and Michigan state officials caused, sustained, and covered up the poisoning of a community with lead- and legionella-contaminated water after the city began delivering Flint River water to its predominantly poor, African-American residents, knowing that it was not treated for corrosion. Flint residents reported that there was something wrong with the way the water looked, tasted, and smelled and that it was causing rashes. In response, the city treated the water with additional chlorine—exacerbating the corrosion, which contaminated the water with hazardous levels of lead and caused an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. State and city officials failed to stop the delivery of Flint River water and assured the public that the water was safe, knowing it was not. Flint's children will likely be permanently developmentally stunted. Six years later, corroded pipes still infect the water and poison Flint residents. In a consolidated class action, claiming deliberate indifference to the residents being poisoned in violation of their substantive due process right to bodily integrity, the district court denied motions to dismiss with respect to every defendant except State Treasurer Dillon. The Sixth Circuit affirmed but remanded the issue of whether Dillon should be dismissed in light of recent holdings; Dillon was not Treasurer at the time of the switch to river water . No legitimate government purpose justifies the city and state officials’ actions. View "Waid v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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Duarte-Lara was convicted of the felony offense of sexual penetration with a foreign object of a minor 14 years or older accomplished by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of bodily injury. (Pen. Code 289(a)(1)(c)1.) He was sentenced to the lower term of six years' imprisonment. The court of appeal affirmed and rejected an argument that the court assessed fines and assessments without determining his ability to pay. There was no substantial evidence of equivocal conduct on the part of the victim and no substantial evidence from which the jury could find that he reasonably and in good faith, albeit mistakenly, believed the victim had consented to sexual penetration with a foreign object. In context, the prosecutor’s closing argument is more akin to drawing inferences from the evidence than arguing facts not in evidence. Given the court’s admonition and instructions as to how the jury was to consider the prosecutor’s arguments, it is not reasonably likely the jurors understood or applied any of the complained-of remarks referring to rape in an improper or erroneous manner. Objections to the prosecutor’s closing remarks were either forfeited for review or the remarks were fair comment on the evidence and reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. View "People v. Duarte-Lara" on Justia Law

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Cross unlawfully obtained $516,000 by opening accounts at out-of-state banks, then opening accounts at Illinois banks. He wrote checks on the out-of-state accounts and deposited them in his Illinois accounts, knowing that there were insufficient funds to cover those checks, then withdrew the money from the Illinois banks. He was charged with five counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344(1). After eight months, the court allowed his appointed attorney to withdraw. While represented by another attorney, Cross entered his guilty plea. Months later, the court allowed that attorney to withdraw, appointing a third counsel. Days later, Cross filed a pro se motion to withdraw his plea, which the court struck, advising Cross that the court would entertain only motions that had been filed by counsel. Days before his scheduled sentencing hearing, Cross nonetheless filed pro se: “Motion To Withdraw Guilty Plea,” “Motion To Terminate Counsel,” and “Motion To Dismiss Case Per A, Mauro, Violation.” At the sentencing hearing, the court gave Cross, his counsel and the government opportunities to address the motions. It denied the Motion to Terminate Counsel on the merits and denied the Motion to Dismiss because Cross had filed it pro se while represented by counsel. The court denied the Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea both on the merits and because Cross had filed it pro se while represented. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court was within its discretion in denying the motions that were filed pro se when Cross was represented by competent counsel who had refused to file the same motions for cogent reasons. View "United States v. Cross" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted writs of mandate directing the superior court to dismiss the untimely filed information against petitioners under Penal Code section 1382, subdivision (a)(1). The court held that the statutory texts are unambiguous and in harmony with the related statutes and rules. In this case, the information was filed on August 14, 2018, 25 days after the July 20, 2018 holding order, and 10 days too late. Furthermore, the People concede that they failed to file the information within the time frame required by section 1382, and they do not assert they had good cause to file the information late. The court also stated that it was not aware of any authority, and the People presented it with none, that holds a party impliedly waives the right to the timely filing of an information by agreeing to a later arraignment. View "Salari v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a petition under Penal Code section 1170.95, which permits defendants convicted of murder under the felony murder rule or natural and probable consequences doctrine to petition for resentencing based on changes to the Penal Code enacted under Senate Bill No. 1437. The court held that petitioner was convicted under the provocation act doctrine, which requires proof of malice, distinguishing it from felony murder and natural and probable consequences murder. Therefore, petitioner is not entitled to resentencing under section 1170.95. View "People v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Joshua Palmer was convicted by jury of first degree murder. The jury found true Palmer committed the murder while engaged in the commission or attempted commission of rape, sodomy, and sexual penetration by force, fear or threat. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Palmer contended he was entitled to a new trial under McCoy v. Louisiana, 138 S.Ct. 1500 (2018), which prohibited counsel from conceding guilt when a defendant insisted on maintaining innocence. He also claimed he was entitled to an additional 10 days of custody credit. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Palmer's contention he was entitled to relief under "McCoy." The State conceded, however, Palmer was entitled to ten days of custody credit. Except for instructing the trial court to amend the abstract of judgment to capture the additional 10 days of custody credit, the Court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The court held that, to the extent that defendant argues his indictment is fatally defective because it did not contain an element of the offense under section 922(g), he failed to preserve that claim by pleading guilty. The court also held that defendant cannot show how the Rehaif error affected his substantial rights. In the factual basis and the rearraignment, defendant admitted that he was a felon convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(4)(A) for a stolen firearm; defendant's sentence is procedurally reasonable where, even if the upward departure was improper, the error is harmless because the heightened sentence was imposed as a variance as well; and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court specifically considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and did not abuse its discretion by imposing an 105-month sentence. View "United States v. Lavalais" on Justia Law

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In November 2013, three men robbed a Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania bank. A bank employee, Kane, later admitted to assisting them. The next morning, the three were pulled over in North Carolina. Wilson stated they were driving to Georgia and admitted that they had a lot of cash in the car. The officer, suspecting that they were going to buy drugs in Atlanta, searched the car, found the stolen cash, turned it over to federal agents, then released the men. A week later, three men robbed a Phoenixville, Pennsylvania bank. The police got a tip from Howell, whom Wilson had tried to recruit for the heists. Howell provided Wilson's cell phone number. Police pulled his cell-site location data, which put him at the Bala Cynwyd bank right before the first robbery and showed five calls and 17 text messages to Kane that day. Howell identified Wilson and Moore from a video of the robbery. Kane and Foster took plea bargains. Wilson and Moore were tried for bank robbery, conspiracy, and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Moore was sentenced to 385 months’ imprisonment. Wilson received 519 months. The Third Circuit affirmed. Counsel’s stipulation that the banks were federally insured did not violate the Sixth Amendment, which does not categorically forbid stipulating to a crime’s jurisdictional element without the defendant’s consent or over the defendant’s objection. View "United States v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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On October 27, 2010, Spears drove Smith and Chandler to Cincinnati to buy drugs. Chandler left the car and returned, stating that “his man was coming.” The men then heard a voice: “Chandler, where’s my money[?]” Smith saw a bearded African American man in his thirties, of average build. Bullets ripped through the side window., hitting Chandler’s spinal cord. Spears rushed Chandler to the hospital, where doctors placed him on life support. Days later, Chandler regained consciousness. He could control movement only in his eyes. Doctors worked out a system of communicating by blinking. Chandler answered questions from his doctors and communicated with Father Seher, a priest and long-time friend. Chandler communicated that he understood his “likelihood of death” and requested Last Rites rather than the Sacrament of the Sick. Chandler later communicated to police that he knew his shooter; he blinked the letter “O.” Police showed him a photo of Woods, a dealer known on the streets as “O.” Chandler confirmed that Woods shot him. Woods had sold Chandler drugs many times. Chandler owed him money; Woods warned Chandler that “something was going to happen.” The shooting happened 100 feet from Woods’ house. Chandler subsequently suffered an aneurysm. On November 12, he died. Police arrested Woods 200 miles away from his home In jail, Woods told his cellmate (an informant) that he shot someone over a drug debt. At trial, the court admitted Chandler’s identification of Woods as a dying declaration. The jury convicted Woods. The Sixth Circuit rejected his habeas petition, rejecting Woods’ claims that the admission of Chandler’s deathbed identification violated the Confrontation Clause and that the state impermissibly struck a black juror based on race. View "Woods v. Cook" on Justia Law