Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 1440 month sentence after he was convicted of five counts relating to the production and possession of child pornography. The court held that the district court did not procedurally err when it calculated defendant's guidelines sentence as close to indefinite incarceration as the law allowed. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable, because the district court thoroughly discussed defendant's particularly heinous conduct and direct participation in the creation of child pornography, his breach of public trust as a police officer, and his total failure to take responsibility for his actions. View "United States v. Kirby" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress the results of a blood test on the grounds that the blood testing was a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court agreed with defendant that there could be no implied consent to a warrantless blood draw upon threat of criminal penalty, but held that Birchfield v. North Dakota (2016) 579 U.S. ___, [136 S.Ct. 2160], did not mandate the invalidation of his actual consent. The court explained that Birchfield prohibits a court from finding implied consent where an arrestee's only choice is to consent to a warrantless blood test or be prosecuted for refusing to do so. In this case, the blood test was not defendant's only choice. Rather, defendant was given a choice of tests to choose from and the arresting officer stated that he was subject to criminal penalties only if he refused all options. Furthermore, the trial court held a hearing on the issue of actual consent and found consent to be voluntary. Finally, the court rejected defendant's contention that the Legislature's decision to amend California's implied consent law, Assembly Bill No. 2717, in response to Birchfield strongly indicated that he could not have freely and voluntarily consented. View "People v. Nzolameso" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that the district court did not err by denying his motion to suppress evidence found as a result of the search of his cell phone, seized from his rental car after a high-speed chase. In this case, the phone contained photos tying him to the firearm that was recovered from the car. As a preliminary matter, the panel held, in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Byrd v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1518, 1530 (2018), that it did not need to address the issue of whether defendant lacked standing to challenge the search before addressing defendant's Fourth Amendment claims, because such an inquiry was not jurisdictional. The panel held that the searches of both the car and the phone were lawful, because the phone was seized as part of a valid inventory search; probable cause supported the two warrants issued to search the phone; and there was a sufficient factual basis for the issuing magistrate judges to conclude, independently of the affiants' beliefs, that evidence might be found on defendant's cell phone. View "United States v. Garay" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against officials of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), challenging aspects of the Arizona execution process. Plaintiffs contend that Arizona's practices violate their First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings and violate inmates' rights of access to the courts. The Ninth Circuit held that the First Amendment right of access to governmental proceedings encompasses a right to hear the sounds of executions in their entirety. Furthermore, on the facts alleged, Arizona's restrictions on press and public access to the sounds of executions impermissibly burden that right. However, the panel held that neither the public nor the press has a First Amendment right of access to information regarding the manufacturers, sellers, lot numbers, National Drug Codes, and expiration dates of lethal-injection drugs, as well as documentation regarding the qualifications of certain execution team members. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs' claim that Arizona's restrictions violate the inmates' First Amendment right of access to the courts failed as a matter of law. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's second amended complaint. View "First Amendment Coalition of Arizona v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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Jury selection in Howell’s 2004 prosecution consisted of two venire panels. The first included 35 individuals, two of whom were black; both were excused for hardship. The second panel included 25 potential jurors, all of whom were white. Howell, a black man, was convicted for the 2002 felony murder of a white man by an all-white jury. Before jury selection, Howell filed a Motion to Ensure Representative Venire, arguing that he was entitled to a jury pool that represented a fair cross-section of the community, particularly with respect to race. The court held a hearing on Howell’s allegations that black individuals were systemically under-represented in Allegheny County’s jury pools and considered expert testimony that black individuals made up 4.87% of Allegheny County’s jury pool but made up 10.7% of the population of Allegheny County eligible for jury service. The court denied Howell’s motion. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that Howell had not been denied a trial by a fair cross-section of the community. In Howell’s federal habeas proceeding, the court assumed, without deciding, “that the Superior Court erred in requiring [Howell] to show discriminatory intent,” but concluded that Howell failed to establish a Sixth Amendment violation because other courts found no constitutional violation in cases with higher percentages of disparity. The Third Circuit affirmed. Any underrepresentation in Howell’s jury pool was not caused by a systematically discriminatory process. View "Howell v. Superintendent Rockview SCI" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's denial of defendant's motion to stay and vacate a writ of execution on his retirement account. The court held that the district court's reasons for denying defendant's motions were erroneous. In this case, the district court neither allowed discovery nor conducted an evidentiary hearing, and thus the record did not provide a basis for a complete understanding of what happened in the course of the plea negotiations and thereafter. The court held that the evidence was sufficient in these circumstances to require of the district court that it take evidence and make findings to determine such questions as whether the merger clause should be strictly enforced in accordance with its terms, whether the Office of the United States Attorney's undertaking to recommend restoration was fulfilled, whether its expression of optimism that its recommendation of restoration would be accepted was misleading, and whether defendant was entitled to any relief. View "United States v. Feldman" on Justia Law

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The burden of proof for the four factor test that prosecutors must satisfy before a court may compel the medication of the accused in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), is by clear and convincing evidence, not just by the preponderance of the evidence. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, because it was not clear from the record what burden of proof the district court applied and in light of the sensitivity of the interest involved. The court remanded for the district court to apply the clear and convincing evidence standard. View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's sentence after defendant pleaded guilty to providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. The court held that the district court committed procedural error in concluding, as a matter of law, that the terrorism enhancement did not apply and therefore failed to determine whether, as a factual matter, the enhancement applies. Because the error was not harmless, the court vacated the original sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law

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A warrant issued for the search of Klugman’s residence and his dental practice, authorizing the seizure evidence of child pornography. Officers seized extensive electronic evidence contained on multiple devices. Klugman was charged with knowingly possessing images of minors engaging in or simulating sexual conduct. In a motion to suppress, Klugman cited the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, sections 1538.5 and 1546.4(a), asserting that the warrant lacked particularity and probable cause and “contained no limiting time periods, specific accounts, precise descriptions of the types of information, or particular electronic devices that could be seized. Nor did it contain any safeguards such as sealing or the appointment of a referee to preserve the privacy of seized information unrelated to the purpose of the warrant. Instead, it authorized a ‘complete dump’ of all electronic devices ... including thousands of patient records.” The court of appeal affirmed. Even disregarding timeliness issues, the trial court did not err. The reports based on information derived from third parties were not conclusory, were not stale, and were reliable and corroborative; inferences from tips were reinforced by the opinion of the affiant, a 20-year veteran who relied on his training, experience, and conversations with other officers and with the computer forensics expert. While the warrant for Klugman’s equipment did not dictate that medical information about Klugman’s patients be sealed in compliance with HIPAA, investigating officers previewed material at the scene, “thus addressing the issue noted in the statute.” View "Klugman v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Davis, an Illinois prisoner suffering from kidney disease, received dialysis on a Saturday. He subsequently told a prison nurse that his mind was fuzzy and his body was weak. Both complaints were similar to side effects he had experienced in the past after dialysis. The nurse called Dr. Kayira, the prison’s medical director, who asked her whether Davis had asymmetrical grip strength, facial droop, or was drooling—all classic signs of a stroke. When she said “no,” Dr. Kayira determined that Davis was experiencing the same dialysis-related side effects as before rather than something more serious. He told the nurse to monitor the problem and call him if the symptoms got worse. Dr. Kayira did not hear anything for the rest of the weekend. On Monday morning he examined Davis and discovered that Davis had suffered a stroke. Davis sued, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment and a state-law medical-malpractice claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Kayira. The deliberate-indifference claim failed because there is no evidence that Kayira was aware of symptoms suggesting that Davis was suffering a stroke. The state-law claim failed because Davis lacked expert testimony about the appropriate standard of care. A magistrate had blocked Davis’s sole expert because he was not disclosed in time, Davis never objected to that ruling before the district court. View "Davis v. Kayira" on Justia Law