Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions connected with the murder of Steven DiSarro, holding that Defendants were not entitled to relief on their allegations of error.Defendants, Francis Salemme and Paul Weadick, were convicted of the 1993 murder of DiSarro. At the time of the murder, Salemme was the boss of a criminal organization known as the New England La Cosa Nostra. Defendants murdered DiSarro to prevent him from talking with federal agents about his activities with Salemme, Weadick and Salemme's son. On appeal, Defendants challenged the trial court's admission of a significant amount of evidence concerning the prior criminal activities of Salemme and several witnesses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in admitting the evidence. View "United States v. Weadick" on Justia Law

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Julius was convicted of arson for setting fire to a building where his ex-girlfriend, Noack, was living, twice in the same night. Julius was seen hanging around the building and threw rocks at the apartment window. On the night of the fires, Julius texted Noack repeatedly, asking if she was “coming outside.” He called her five times in a row. After midnight, a building resident woke up to the smell of smoke and found burning coals inside the building’s front door. Shortly after the second fire, an officer found Julius hiding under a car, patted Julius down, and found a lighter in his pocket. Julius was “clearly intoxicated.” Testing revealed gasoline on Julius’s shoes and socks.The government called a state police computer forensic examiner and an ATF agent to testify about extracting text messages from Julius’s phone. . The government did not seek to qualify these witnesses as experts. The ATF agent testified that she could not reach any conclusions as to the phone’s location. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Neither the district court’s failure to qualify the forensic examiner and ATF agent as expert witnesses before allowing them to testify nor the denial of an opportunity to cross-examine the ATF agent about the location data affected the verdict. View "United States v. Julius" on Justia Law

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The issue this interlocutory appeal presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether evidence seized by federal Border Patrol agents during a roving patrol (pursuant to their authority to conduct warrantless searches under 8 U.S.C. 1357) was admissible in a state criminal proceeding when that search did not comply with Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution. Defendants Phillip Walker-Brazie and Brandi-Lena Butterfield argued that because the overwhelming purpose of Vermont’s exclusionary rule was to protect individual liberty, the Supreme Court should apply the exclusionary rule and suppress the evidence pursuant to Article 11. To this the Supreme Court agreed, holding that such evidence is inadmissible in Vermont criminal proceedings. View "Vermont v. Walker-Brazie" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Mendez was convicted of 12 counts of second-degree robbery and one count of attempted second-degree robbery, with personal weapon use enhancement findings as to 12 of the counts (Penal Code 12022.53(b)). He was sentenced to 164 months for the robbery counts plus 560 months on the weapon enhancements, a total term of 724 months. By letter to the Los Angeles County Superior Court dated 2019, the secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recommended a recall of Mendez’s sentence, noting an amendment to section 12022.53(h), effective January 2018, giving courts discretion to strike or dismiss a personal use firearm enhancement at sentencing or resentencing. The trial court declined.Mendez argued the trial court failed to adequately weigh his postconviction record and afforded him no opportunity to be heard regarding the CDCR recommendation. The court of appeal reversed. In view of the substantial liberty interest at stake, the court remanded to the trial court to give notice to the parties, to allow the parties the opportunity to supplement the CDCR’s recommendation with additional relevant information, and to enable the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to recall Mendez’s sentence in light of such information as well as any briefing the parties might choose to submit. View "People v. Mendez" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Corey Patrick was convicted by jury for multiple drug and weapons offenses. On appeal, Patrick challenged : (1) the trial court’s decision to permit law enforcement witnesses to testify about the lengthy drug investigation leading to his arrest; (2) one of his convictions for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, arguing there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction for the simultaneous possession of a firearm and a controlled substance because the State failed to satisfy the “possession” element; and (3) the second of his weapons charges should have been vacated as duplicative of his other conviction under Count Two of the Indictment for possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited (weapon and prior felony conviction). After review, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Patrick’s convictions except for his conviction under Count Four of the October 7, 2019 Indictment (weapon and drugs together). The Count Four conviction duplicated his conviction under Count Two (weapon and prior felony conviction) and violated the constitutional prohibition against Double Jeopardy. Thus, judgment was reversed and remanded to the Superior Court to vacate his conviction and sentence under Count Four of the October 7, 2019 Indictment. View "Patrick v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the orders of the trial court imposing lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) upon Defendant, holding that the court of appeals abused its discretion when it allowed Defendant's petition for writ of certiorari and invoked Rule 2 to review the SBM orders.Defendant was convicted of three counts of statutory rape of a child by an adult, two counts of statutory sex offense with a child, and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The trial court ordered lifetime sex offender registration and SBM pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-208.40A(c). The court of appeals reached the merits of Defendant's SBM challenge and vacated the SBM orders without prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals abused its discretion by allowing Defendant's petition for a writ of certiorari and invoking Rule 2 to review Defendant's challenge to the SBM orders. View "State v. Ricks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reinstated the order of the trial court imposing lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) based upon Defendant's status as an aggravated offender, holding that the order complied with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.C. Const. art. I, 20.Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sexual offense. While Defendant was on probation, he sexually assaulted his minor niece. The trial court ordered Defendant to enroll in lifetime SBM and that, under the totality of the circumstances, the SBM program was constitutionally reasonable as applied to Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a search effected by the imposition of lifetime SBM upon a defendant due to his status as an aggravated offender is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the SBM program does not violate Article I, Section 20 because SMB orders do not constitute general warrants. View "State v. Hilton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of two counts of rape of a child under fourteen years of age, holding that Defendant's counsel was ineffective.A jury convicted Defendant of two counts of rape of a child under fourteen years of age for her actions as a middle school counselor in allegedly engaging in sex acts with a student. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' holding that Defendant's intent was irrelevant in this case and remanded the case to the district court for a Van Cleave hearing. The district court concluded that trial counsel had not been ineffective. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the absence of an instruction permitting the jury to apply Defendant's defense was prejudicial; and (2) there is no mental culpability requirement for rape of a child under fourteen. View "State v. Dinkel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court overruling Defendant's motion for absolute discharge, in which Defendant alleged violations of his constitutional and statutory rights to a speedy trial, holding that the district court did not err.On appeal from the denial of his motion for discharge, Defendant argued that the district court erred when it concluded that continuances ordered by the court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were for good cause and therefore should be excluded from the calculation of the time for bringing him to trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither Defendant's statutory nor his federal or state constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated under the circumstances of this case. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered during a warrantless inventory search of his vehicle, holding that the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement of the United States and Nevada Constitutions applied in this case.Following a lawful stop and arrest of Defendant, a police officer performed a warrantless inventory search of Defendant's vehicle that produced no formal inventory. The officer, however, observed contraband during the search, leading to criminal charged being filed against Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the evidence recovered from the vehicle was the product and fruit of an illegal search. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the evidence was validly discovered under the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement applied because the officer was legally present in the vehicle at the time he observed the contraband. View "Jim v. State" on Justia Law