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Petitioner sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 after the district court granted a certificate of appealability on the narrow procedural question of whether a habeas petitioner's claims raised for the first time in objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations must be heard by the district judge. The Fifth Circuit broadly answered in the affirmative, but found in this case that the district court did not commit reversible error. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Samples v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of 11 counts related to a corruption scandal involving the City of Bell. The Court of Appeals held that the jury could reasonably have concluded that defendant was criminally negligent by failing to take steps to determine whether the loans at issue were authorized. However, the court reversed the five convictions for misappropriation of public funds because the jury instructions were erroneous in light of People v. Hubbard, (2016) 63 Cal.4th 378. Hubbard was issued after defendant's trial and clarified the scope of Penal Code section 424. Furthermore, the error was not harmless. The court affirmed the conflict of interest conviction based on her involvement in changing Bell's pension plan because amendments to the pension plan effectively modified the terms of defendant's employment with Bell, and constituted the making of a contract within the meaning of Government Code section 1090. The court remanded for further proceedings, including correction of the abstract of judgment to delete references to defendant's current or prior serious or violent felony convictions. View "People v. Spaccia" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 12 month and 1 day sentence and his special condition of release requiring him to attend a treatment program for anger control/domestic violence based on a ten-year old conviction for terroristic threats. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying a sentence reduction under USSG 2K2.1(b)(2) where the only evidence at sentencing to arguably support a sporting-use reduction related to defendant's firearm offense was that he enjoys hunting, fishing, and competing in gun competitions. However, defendant failed to present any evidence that the firearms he possessed were actually used for those purposes. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the special condition of supervised release where there was sufficient basis in the record to support the condition. View "United States v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting gang-related evidence to establish why officers were present, the steps they took, and the reasoning that they had. The evidence also established defendant's motive and intent. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to establish that defendant knowingly possessed the firearm. View "United States v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, filed a pro se petition seeking relief by way of writ from what he alleged to be an illegally imposed sentence. The DC Circuit rejected plaintiff's claims under the international doctrine of specialty and the international doctrine of dual criminality. Even assuming that 18 U.S.C. 3192 created an implied individual claim for relief and that the district court would have the authority to compel the President to perform this duty, the only relief that plaintiff seeks is release from a conviction and sentence which he claims were imposed in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States. The court explained that plaintiff's arguments classically described habeas relief. The court rejected plaintiff's remaining arguments and affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of jurisdiction. View "Day v. Trump" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of unlawful possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of PCP (Count 1), unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of a felony (Count 2), and using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense (Count 3). The DC Circuit reversed defendant's conviction on Counts 1 and 3, holding that the evidence was equivocal about his relationship to the PCP and his ability to exercise dominion and control over it. Therefore, the evidence was insufficient to show that he constructively possessed the PCP and thus insufficient to show a drug trafficking offense. The court affirmed defendant's conviction on Count 2, holding that his evidentiary and constitutional challenges did not warrant a reversal of his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. View "United States v. Dorman" on Justia Law

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Lee moved to the U.S. from South Korea with his parents when he was 13. For 35 years he never returned to South Korea, nor did he become a U.S. citizen. He is a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, Lee admitted possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute. His attorney repeatedly assured him that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty. Lee accepted a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. His conviction was an “aggravated felony,” 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(B), so he was subject to mandatory deportation. When Lee learned of this consequence, he moved to vacate his conviction, arguing that his attorney had provided constitutionally ineffective assistance. Lee and his plea-stage counsel testified that “deportation was the determinative issue” in Lee's decision to accept a plea. Lee’s counsel acknowledged that although Lee’s defense was weak, if he had known Lee would be deported upon pleading guilty, he would have advised him to go to trial. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of relief. The Supreme Court reversed. Lee established that he was prejudiced by erroneous advice, demonstrating a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.” The Court stated that the inquiry demands a “case-by-case examination.” A defendant’s decisionmaking may not turn solely on the likelihood of conviction after trial. When the inquiry is focused on what an individual defendant would have done, the possibility of even a highly improbable result may be pertinent to the extent it would have affected the defendant’s decisionmaking. The Court reasoned that it could not say that it would be irrational for someone in Lee’s position to risk additional prison time in exchange for holding on to some chance of avoiding deportation. View "Lee v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of attempted criminal contempt in the second degree and harassment in the second degree, petitioned for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Petitioner was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge, with the condition that she abide by a two-year order of protection. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the petition, holding that the order of protection did not place her "in custody" for purposes of section 2254(a). View "Vega v. Schneiderman" on Justia Law

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Halbach disappeared on Halloween 2005. Her family contacted police after she did not show up at the photography studio where she worked and her voice mailbox was full. Officers focused on the Avery Auto Salvage yard in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the last place she was known to have gone. Avery, the son of the business owner, lived on the property. That day, Avery called Auto Trader magazine, for whom Halbach worked, to request that she photograph a minivan that he wished to sell. The police suspected that Avery’s 16‐year‐old nephew, Dassey, who also lived on the property, might have information about Halbach’s murder and called Dassey into the police station. After many hours of interrogation over several days, Dassey confessed that he, with Avery, had raped and murdered Halbach and burned her body. Before trial, Dassey recanted his confession. The state failed to find any physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After unsuccessful state appeals and post‐conviction proceedings, Dassey sought federal habeas relief, claiming that he did not receive effective assistance of counsel and that his confession was not voluntary. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting relief. The state court did not apply the proper standard; juvenile confessions require more care. “If a state court can evade all federal review by merely parroting the correct Supreme Court law, then the writ of habeas corpus is meaningless.” View "Dassey v. Dittmann" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a former CIA agent, appealed his convictions for unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, unlawful retention and disclosure of classified information, attempted unauthorized disclosure of classified information, unauthorized conveyance of government property, and obstruction of justice. The Fourth Circuit held that the government failed to prove proper venue for defendant's offense of unauthorized disclosure to a reporter of a letter relating to a classified program. In regard to the other charged crimes, the court held that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury's findings that defendant more likely than not committed the essential conduct of these offenses; there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant obstructed justice by trying to conceal an email from a grand jury investigation; and the district court did not commit reversible error when instructing the jury on venue, nor did it abuse its discretion when it allowed the government to introduce evidence that defendant kept classified documents in his home. Accordingly, the court vacated the conviction for unauthorized disclosure of the program letter, but otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Sterling" on Justia Law