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In 2011, Williams was charged with felony receiving a stolen vehicle, Penal Code 496d(a), with allegations that Williams had served five prison sentences, one of which was a serious or violent felony. Williams pleaded no contest, admitting the special allegations. The court granted his request to dismiss the prior strike finding, imposed a suspended sentence of seven years, and granted Williams four years of formal probation. In November 2014, Williams filed a petition to recall his sentence, to reduce his conviction to a misdemeanor, and for resentencing (Penal Code 1170.18(b), (d), (f)), arguing the stolen vehicle he received was worth less than $950. Proposition 47 changed the crime of theft from a felony to a misdemeanor when the property involved was valued at $950 or less. The court denied the petition, reasoning that section 1170.18 was specific in listing the offenses that are subject to recall. The court of appeal affirmed, without prejudice to the filing of a new petition. Although section 1170.18 does not expressly reference section 496d, it does permit resentencing under section 490.2 for “obtaining any property by theft” valued at less than $950. A conviction for receiving a stolen vehicle is obtaining property by theft and qualifies for resentencing. Williams, however, failed to demonstrate the value of the stolen vehicle/ View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 20 year sentence for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. The court held that the district court adequately conducted a de novo sentencing hearing by performing an individualized assessment of all relevant sentencing factors; the district court did not clearly err in declining to apply the acceptance-of-responsibility reduction under USSG 3E1.1; under Fourth Amendment precedent, the court was compelled to hold that kidnapping under North Carolina law was a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2; and it was not clear that the career offender enhancement was grossly disproportionate, facially or as applied to defendant's criminal history. The court held that the district court appropriately decided not to restrict public access to the entire sentencing memorandum, but it erred by not granting the less restrictive remedy of allowing defendant to file a redacted version of the memorandum. Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of defendant's motion to seal his sentencing memorandum and remanded for the filing of a redacted version of the memorandum for public records. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of one count of first degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and other offenses and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that no prejudicial error occurred during the proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error in the selection of the jury; (2) the trial court properly instructed the jury; (3) the trial court did not err in its evidentiary rulings; (4) the arguments raised by Defendant regarding special circumstances issues were unavailing; and (5) no prejudicial occurred during the penalty phase proceedings. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Appellee David Ehrnstein was convicted by jury of incest against L.E. He filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that one of his trial prosecutors and the victim advocate in his case had instructed L.E. to avoid a defense subpoena. Prior to holding a hearing on that motion, the trial court found that it was compelled by the rules of professional conduct to appoint a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing. Pursuant to sections 16-12-102(2) and 20-1-107(3), C.R.S. (2017), the district attorney filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, which was faced with deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the special prosecutor. The Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion because it misapplied the law when it concluded that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing on the new trial motion in this case. View "Colorado v. Ehrnstein" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for misusing a social security number and for the statutorily mandated two additional years in prison for aggravated identity theft. The court held that the district court did not err in considering defendant's prior unobjected-to conduct showing that defendant, then nineteen, had sex with a fifteen year old girl ten to fifteen times, in determining whether to vary upward; in denying defendant's request to move the paragraph detailing the sexual-conduct charge from the "Adult Criminal Conviction(s)" section of the PSR to the "Other Arrests" section; by imposing the $5,000 fine; in considering the pretrial services report to impeach defendants; and by imposing the fine before allocution. View "United States v. Hernandez-Espinoza" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed petitioner's new sentence after the district court vacated his original sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and again applied an enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). The court held that petitioner's two prior Iowa assault convictions were committed on occasions different from one another and qualified as separate predicate offenses under section 924(e). Therefore, the district court properly enhanced petitioner's sentence under the ACCA and the corresponding sentencing guideline. The court also held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court had wide latitude in deciding how to weigh the relevant 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant. View "Levering v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law

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In 1977, Carzell Moore was convicted of the rape and murder of Teresa Allen, and sentenced to death. In a federal habeas corpus case, Moore was granted a new sentencing proceeding. In the course of the new state sentencing proceeding, the State filed notice of its intent to seek the death penalty; Moore moved in the trial court to bar the State from seeking the death penalty, the trial court denied the motion, and this Court affirmed. In 2002, assisted by counsel, Moore pled guilty to rape and malice murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In 2017, acting pro se, Moore filed a motion for an out-of-time appeal, alleging that the sentence of life without the possibility of parole was void, that his sentence contravened public policy, and that counsel who represented him during the 2002 plea and sentencing hearing was ineffective; Moore also moved that venue be changed to the Superior Court of Monroe County, which was granted. In September 2017, addressing Moore’s motion for an out-of-time appeal, the Superior Court of Monroe County denied the motion, finding that Moore had elected to enter his guilty pleas and accept a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after discussing the matter with counsel “for some time prior to the hearing.” The court also found that the sentence was not a void sentence, did not contravene public policy, and that Moore was not prejudiced by the sentence, as the State intended to seek the death penalty and Moore benefitted from the pleas by not having to face it. Moore did not file a notice of appeal of the September 2017 order; rather, in October 2017, he filed in the trial court what he styled an “Amended Motion for Out of Time Appeal.” The court rejected the motion, finding that it was untimely in light of the trial court’s September 20, 2017 denial of the initial motion; as to the merits, the court also ruled that there was no violation of Moore’s due process rights during the 2002 hearing, and that Moore’s 2002 trial counsel was not ineffective. Moore appealed the rejection of his “Amended Motion for Out of Time Appeal.” Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the rejection of Moore's Out of Time Appeal. View "Moore v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Christopher Szorcsik was convicted by jury of malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault in connection with the 2007 stabbing death of Richard Bentley. On appeal, Szorcsik contended: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the verdict; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress certain statements that he made to police; (3) the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the rule of sequestration and voluntary manslaughter; and (4) that his trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to request a jury charge on voluntary manslaughter. Finding no reversible error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Szorcsik's convictions. View "Szorcsik v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Appellant Qutravius Palmer and his codefendant Zion Wainwright were convicted of murder and other crimes in connection with the December 2013 shooting death of Xavier Arnold. On appeal, Palmer argued the trial court erred by failing to order an unprompted evaluation of his competency to stand trial and by denying his motion to sever the codefendants’ trials. He also argued his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Finding no error, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Palmer v. Georgia" on Justia Law