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Defendant Daniel Larkin appealed his conviction of second-degree aggravated domestic assault. Defendant argued the trial court’s exclusion of evidence of complainant’s previous conviction for providing false information to a police officer (FIPO), offered by defendant to impeach complainant, deprived defendant of a fair trial. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in excluding the evidence, and that the error was not harmless. "Here, the jury was faced with the competing narratives of complainant and defendant. The outcome of the case hinged on the credibility of these two individuals, and thus we must take extra caution when analyzing the effect of the exclusion of defendant’s impeachment evidence - complainant’s FIPO conviction. . . . The jury could reasonably find that, because complainant had lied to police previously, her statements to testifying witnesses were less credible than they would have been otherwise." View "Vermont v. Larkin" on Justia Law

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Appellant Andrew Tran was convicted of murdering and attempting to murder two rival gang members. On appeal, he contended his conviction for attempted murder had to be reversed because the trial court gave the jury a confusing and inapt instruction on the kill zone theory. The Court of Appeal rejected this contention. However, appellant was only 16 years old when he committed his crimes, and the Court agreed with him that the case must be remanded so he can make a record of information that will be relevant to his youthful offender parole hearing in 25 years. Thus, while the Court affirmed the judgment in its entirety, the Court remanded for this limited purpose. View "California v. Tran" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of deprivation of rights under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C. 242. In this case, the evidence showed that defendant, in the course of his police duties, assaulted another individual following his arrest on various charges. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of prior bad acts; the evidence was more than sufficient to support the jury's determination that defendant acted willfully, as required under section 242; the district court did not abuse its discretion in using a special verdict form and by refusing defendant's proposed jury instruction on lesser-included offenses; and the district court acted within its discretion in requiring defendant to pay the full amount of the victim's medical expenses. View "United States v. Cowden" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of deprivation of rights under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C. 242. In this case, the evidence showed that defendant, in the course of his police duties, assaulted another individual following his arrest on various charges. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of prior bad acts; the evidence was more than sufficient to support the jury's determination that defendant acted willfully, as required under section 242; the district court did not abuse its discretion in using a special verdict form and by refusing defendant's proposed jury instruction on lesser-included offenses; and the district court acted within its discretion in requiring defendant to pay the full amount of the victim's medical expenses. View "United States v. Cowden" on Justia Law

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Bailey offered to sell marijuana to an informant who had already brokered the purchase of a firearm from him. The informant accepted the offer and purchased $40 worth of marijuana from Bailey contemporaneously with the firearm purchase. Bailey was convicted of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Bailey’s argument that the facts do not tie the gun and the marijuana purchase together so as to demonstrate that the gun actually furthered the marijuana sale and that his possession of the firearm was simply coincident with the marijuana transaction. Because it was the opportunity to purchase a firearm that brought the informant to Bailey and made possible the secondary sale of marijuana to the informant, the facts support the finding that Bailey’s possession of the weapon furthered the marijuana sale. View "United States v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Bailey offered to sell marijuana to an informant who had already brokered the purchase of a firearm from him. The informant accepted the offer and purchased $40 worth of marijuana from Bailey contemporaneously with the firearm purchase. Bailey was convicted of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Bailey’s argument that the facts do not tie the gun and the marijuana purchase together so as to demonstrate that the gun actually furthered the marijuana sale and that his possession of the firearm was simply coincident with the marijuana transaction. Because it was the opportunity to purchase a firearm that brought the informant to Bailey and made possible the secondary sale of marijuana to the informant, the facts support the finding that Bailey’s possession of the weapon furthered the marijuana sale. View "United States v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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In early 2010 Alvin Wassillie was serving out the remainder of a felony sentence at the Parkview Center halfway house in Anchorage. On February 19 he left Parkview on a pass to look for a job. Around the time of his return that afternoon a staff member saw someone toss a white bag through an open window into an upstairs room. Other staff members searched the room and found a white bag with a bottle of vodka in it. Parkview’s security manager identified Wassillie as the person who threw the bag (and presumably the vodka) into the building. Bringing alcohol into the facility was a violation of its rules, so Wassillie was asked to wait in the lobby while a report was made and the Department of Corrections (DOC) was contacted to take Wassillie back to jail. After waiting several hours in the lobby, Wassillie walked out of the facility. A jury found Wassillie guilty of escaping from a halfway house, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. The Alaska Supreme Court granted a petition for hearing on the issue of whether the conviction should be overturned because of the invalidity of the grand jury’s indictment. Wassillie argued that the indictment was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence — an incident report prepared by a staff member at the halfway house, relaying another resident’s description of the defendant’s conduct and introduced to the grand jury through the testimony of an uninvolved supervisor. The State countered that the incident report fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and that even if it was inadmissible hearsay the conviction should not be reversed because any error in the grand jury proceeding was later made harmless by the error-free trial. The Supreme Court held that the incident report did not fall under the business records exception to the hearsay rule and should have been excluded. Because the evidence was otherwise insufficient to support the grand jury’s decision to indict, the indictment was invalid and the conviction had to be reversed. View "Wassillie v. Alaska" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was what constitutes sufficient evidence to prove a person intentionally or knowingly violated a protective order. K.G., the pastor of a small Indiana church, sought a protective order against Defendant, a parishioner. The court issued a protective order prohibiting Defendant from “harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting, or directly or indirectly communicating with” K.G. After Defendant emailed three elders at the church, she was convicted of two counts of invasion of privacy for knowingly or intentionally violating the order. The jury found Defendant guilty. Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. A majority of the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant’s intent in sending the email was not to contact K.G. but to ask the church elders to discipline or punish K.G. for alleged wrongful conduct. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed Defendant’s conviction, holding that the jury acted within its discretion in discrediting Defendant’s testimony and finding that Defendant intentionally or knowingly communicated with K.G. through her email. The court also affirmed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by considering Defendant’s criminal history as an aggravating circumstance and that Defendant’s sentence was appropriate considering her offense and character. View "Phipps v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was what constitutes sufficient evidence to prove a person intentionally or knowingly violated a protective order. K.G., the pastor of a small Indiana church, sought a protective order against Defendant, a parishioner. The court issued a protective order prohibiting Defendant from “harassing, annoying, telephoning, contacting, or directly or indirectly communicating with” K.G. After Defendant emailed three elders at the church, she was convicted of two counts of invasion of privacy for knowingly or intentionally violating the order. The jury found Defendant guilty. Defendant appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. A majority of the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant’s intent in sending the email was not to contact K.G. but to ask the church elders to discipline or punish K.G. for alleged wrongful conduct. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed Defendant’s conviction, holding that the jury acted within its discretion in discrediting Defendant’s testimony and finding that Defendant intentionally or knowingly communicated with K.G. through her email. The court also affirmed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by considering Defendant’s criminal history as an aggravating circumstance and that Defendant’s sentence was appropriate considering her offense and character. View "Phipps v. State" on Justia Law

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While Cureton was under investigation for dealing crack cocaine, he used a gun to demand ransom for his roommate; her grandfather agreed by telephone to wire Cureton $4,500. A jury convicted Cureton of interstate communication of a ransom demand, attempted extortion (guidelines range, 240 months, the statutory maximum), and two counts of possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) (ransom demand and attempted extortion). Cureton's drug possession case had a guideline range of 360-720 months. In a third appeal, following re-imposition of a 444‐month sentence, the Seventh Circuit held that the ransom demand qualified as a “crime of violence.” The Supreme Court remanded for reconsideration in light of its 2017 “Dean” holding, regarding consideration of section 924(c)'s mandatory minimum sentence when imposing sentences for other crimes. The Seventh Circuit noted that each of Cureton's sentencings has included the statutory maximum 240 months for the ransom demand, signaling that the judges were not inclined to reduce the sentence for that predicate crime; the 360 months of non‐924(c) sentences take into account several very serious crimes. No judge gave any sign that he believed that the reduced total sentence of 444 months was too severe. The Seventh Circuit ordered a limited remand so that the district court can determine whether it would have imposed the same sentence, knowing that under Dean, it may consider the mandatory sentence under section 924(c) when deciding the sentences for other crimes. View "United States v. Cureton" on Justia Law