by
The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability to challenge the district court's denial of petitioner's federal habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner failed to show that jurists of reason could debate whether the district court erred in denying his petition for habeas relief on his claim for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The court also held that Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071 section 2(e)(1) offered a "broad definition of mitigating evidence" that was not limited by Article 37.071 section 2(f)(4)'s reference to "moral blameworthiness." Therefore, the state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established law. View "Hummel v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment reflecting defendant's conviction under the relevant Georgia statute as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2). The court held that aggravated assault under Georgia law qualified as an aggravated felony, because it has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another. View "United States v. Valle-Ramirez" on Justia Law

by
In this case centering around who pays for the duties the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA), Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 6600 et seq., imposes on county governments, the Supreme Court held that the Commission on State Mandates erred when it treated The Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act: Jessica’s Law (Proposition 83) as a basis for terminating the State’s obligation to reimburse county governments for the costs of implementing the SVPA. Originally, the State was obligated to reimburse county governments for the costs of implementing the SVPA. In 2011, the Commission identified six county duties that no longer constituted reimbursable state mandates. Six counties (the Counties) filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate and a complaint for declaratory relief challenging this decision. The superior court denied relief, but the Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that simply because certain provisions of the SVPA had been restated without substantive change in Proposition 83, the Commission erred when it treated the initiative as a basis for terminating the State’s obligation to reimburse the Counties. The Court remanded the matter for the Commission to determine how the initiative’s expanded definition of an SVP may affect the State’s obligation to reimburse the Counties. View "County of San Diego v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law

by
Christopher Mountjoy was convicted of reckless manslaughter, illegal discharge of a firearm, and tampering with physical evidence after he shot and killed V.M. outside of a bar for which he worked security. During sentencing, the trial court found that each crime involved extraordinary aggravating circumstances. In doing so, the trial court relied on factual findings that were made by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt on the related charges as aggravating factors for the offense for which he was being sentenced. As a result, the trial court doubled the statutory presumptive maximum of each sentence. Mountjoy appealed his sentences, arguing that aggravating his sentences in this way violated his constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). The court of appeals avoided the question of whether Apprendi and Blakely had been satisfied and concluded that, even assuming they were not satisfied, any error was harmless. The Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari review and affirmed on alternate grounds: the trial court did not deny Mountjoy his rights to due process and trial by jury when it relied on facts found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt on charges related to the offenses for which the aggravated sentences were imposed. View "Mountjoy v. Colorado" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, two death row inmates, served the GDC with a subpoena directing it to testify at a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition and to produce documents concerning Georgia's lethal injection protocol. Plaintiffs planned to use the testimony and documents to support their pending 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims challenging the legality of Mississippi's lethal injection protocol. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of plaintiffs' motion to quash. The court held that the district court applied the correct standard of review to the magistrate judge's ruling on the motion to quash under the "clearly erroneous" or "contrary to law" standard. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by accepting and adopting the magistrate judge's ruling and granting the GDC's motion to quash. View "Jordan v. Georgia Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit vacated defendant's 175 month sentence for conspiracy to distribute heroin. The court held that the district court clearly erred in including 17.5 grams of cocaine base in determining his base offense level, and committed plain error in assigning a criminal history point for an offense committed while he was a minor. The court held that the plain error placed defendant in the wrong criminal history category and affected his substantial rights. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals concluding that the circuit court was permitted to order Appellant to pay restitution in a theft case without a request from the victim or State, holding that the restitution requirement in Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law 7-104 authorizes a court in a theft case to award restitution, regardless of whether the State or the victim requests that relief. The restitution order in this case stemmed from Appellant’s theft conviction and required him to pay his victim the value of the goods he stole in the amount of $18,964.55. On appeal, Appellant argued that restitution was improper because Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. 11-603(b)(1) contains a provision that obliges the victim or State to request restitution in order to trigger a presumed right to receive restitution. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the order of restitution, concluding that the sentencing judge was obliged to order restitution pursuant to section 7-104(g)(1)(i)(2). The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 7-104(g)(1)(i)(2) exists as an exception to section 11-603(b)(1). View "Ingram v. State" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court’s review centered on the State’s use of the Alcotest 7110 MKIII-C (Alcotest) to obtain breath samples from drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2008, the Supreme Court found Alcotest results admissible in drunk-driving cases to establish a defendant’s guilt or innocence for drunk driving. The Court also required that the devices be recalibrated semi-annually to help ensure accurate measurements. Defendant Eileen Cassidy pleaded guilty in municipal court to driving under the influence based solely on Alcotest results showing her blood alcohol level had exceeded the legal limit. Upon learning that the results of her test were among those called into question from the New Jersey State Police’s Alcohol Drug Testing Unit; the coordinator responsible for administering the calibrations was criminally charged, and the samples taken from some 20,000 people were procured by machines calibrated by that coordinator. Cassidy moved to withdraw her guilty plea. A special master issued a 198-page report concluding the reliability of the Alcotest had been undermined by the coordinator’s faulty calibrations. As such, the State could not carry its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence the Alcotest was scientifically reliable. The Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction to vacate Cassidy’s conviction. View "New Jersey v. Cassidy" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, defendant Norman McAllister was charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of procuring a person for the purposes of prostitution, based on allegations that defendant entered into a sex-for-rent arrangement with S.L., the complaining witness, and arranged for a third person to have sex with S.L. in exchange for payment of her electric bill. After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of one count of procuring a person for the purposes of prostitution - the sex-for-electric bill arrangement - and acquitted of the other two charges. Defendant appealed that conviction. The Vermont Supreme Court found the trial court erred in: (1) admitting inadmissible evidence of prior bad acts involving defendant’s uncharged conduct with a deceased third party; and (2) instructing the jury, mid-deliberations, to disregard unstricken and admitted testimony. Accordingly, the conviction was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Vermont v. McAllister" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy and several counts of mail fraud. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a new trial and request for an evidentiary hearing; the admittance of a special agent's testimony regarding the admissions of a codefendant did not violate defendant's Confrontation Clause rights; the district court did not misapply the Sentencing Guidelines in enhancing defendant's offense level; and there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's restitution and forfeiture orders. View "United States v. Dickerson" on Justia Law