Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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At 3:55 a.m. people were loitering outside a lounge when Lopez sideswiped an SUV parked in front of the lounge. Bystanders swarmed Lopez’s car, punching him through an open window. A passenger exited Lopez’s car and fired a warning shot. Lopez exited the car, grabbed the gun, and walked toward the bystanders. Raines, a Cook County correctional officer, out celebrating, arrived at 3:56:11. Lopez walked back toward his car, stopping to fire two shots at an upward angle. Raines approached Lopez with his own gun drawn. Lopez reached to open his car door. Raines started shooting at 3:56:27. Lopez, injured, dropped his gun and staggered away. Raines continued to fire. Raines pursued Lopez, who was leaning against a wall. Lopez’s passenger, Orta, picked up the dropped gun and fired at Raines at 3:56:32 a.m. For about three minutes, Orta and Raines engaged in a standoff. Raines simultaneously restrained Lopez, wounded but conscious, and used him as a human shield. At 4:00:10 a.m., Orta fled. Police and paramedics arrived. Lopez faced criminal charges.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants in his 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit. Raines was entitled to qualified immunity because his use of deadly force did not violate clearly established law although the video footage of the events conveys the impression that Raines might have been able to avoid any use of lethal force. View "Lopez v. Sheriff of Cook County" on Justia Law

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The IRS began a criminal investigation of Gaetano, who owns Michigan cannabis dispensaries. Portal 42, a software company that provides the cannabis industry with point-of-sale systems, confirmed that Gaetano was a client. Agents served a summons, ordering Portal 42 to produce records “and other data relating to the tax liability or the collection of the tax liability or for the purpose of inquiring into any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the internal revenue laws concerning [Gaetano] for the periods shown.” The IRS did not notify Gaetano about the summons. Portal 42 sent the IRS an email with a hyperlink to the requested records. An IRS computer specialist copied the documents. None of the personnel in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division have viewed the records.Gaetano filed a petition under 26 U.S.C. 7609, seeking to quash the summons, arguing that the IRS should have notified Gaetano about the summons and that it was issued in bad faith. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because Gaetano lacked standing. Section 7609 waives the government’s sovereign immunity to allow taxpayers to bring an action to quash certain third-party IRS summonses. An exception applies because the summons here was issued by an IRS criminal investigator “in connection” with an IRS criminal investigation and the summoned party is not a third-party recordkeeper. Without a statutory waiver of sovereign immunity, subject-matter jurisdiction cannot obtain. View "Gaetano v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress and motion for a Franks hearing after he was convicted of one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and cocaine. In regard to the motion to suppress, the court concluded that, even if the warrant affidavit lacked probable cause, the good faith exception applies in this case because the issuing judge could have logically inferred that defendant stored contraband at his residence. Therefore, the officer's reliance on the search warrant was objectively reasonable. In regard to the motion for a Franks hearing, the court also concluded that defendant has not made a substantial preliminary showing that the statements at issue were false and defendant waived his GPS-related argument. View "United States v. Mayweather" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for possessing a firearm while being a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding out-of-court statements as hearsay when they were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In this case, the danger of unfair prejudice carried by a third party's confession was enormous and the confession would almost certainly precipitate a trial within a trial on the adequacy of the Task Force investigation.The court also concluded that, although defendant's indictment was insufficient under Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), the insufficiency did not affect his substantial rights; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an unredacted copy of defendant's prior firearm conviction; and the Florida offense of armed robbery is a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). View "United States v. Elysee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) holding that Defendant was not deprived of due process when the circuit court refused to hold a hearing during trial as to whether Defendant was incompetent pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. 704-404, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion.Defendant was charged with one count of sexual assault in the first degree. During trial, Defendant's counsel informed the circuit court of his belief that Defendant was not fit to proceed. The circuit court denied the motion, and Defendant was found guilty. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that he was incompetent during his trial. The motion was denied. The ICA remanded the case to have the circuit court determine whether Defendant was competent at the time of his trial. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment, holding that there was ample evidence subsequent to trial supporting Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "State v. Fleming " on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction and sentence for manufacturing a controlled substance, holding that the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence that Defendant argued was the fruit of an illegal entry and search of his home.Law enforcement went to Defendant's home to serve a domestic violence emergency protective order (EPO) that prohibited Defendant from possessing firearms and provided for the surrender of firearms to the officer serving the EPO. The officers concluded that the EPO served as a search warrant permitting them to enter and search Defendant's home for weapons. When the officers stepped into the residence, they smelled marijuana and performed a protective sweep, including a pat down of Defendant. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an EPO is not a de facto search warrant, and no exception to the warrant requirement applied to otherwise validate the entry into and search of Defendant's home; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress. View "State v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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In 2015, D’Alandis Love, Perez Love, Kelsey Jennings, and Ken-Norris Stigler were driving in a red Pontiac headed to the Moroccan Lounge when a gold Tahoe approached as they were driving and opened fire. D’Alandis Love was killed. Perez Love, Jennings, and Stigler were seriously injured. Armand Jones, Sedrick Buchanan, Michael Holland, Jacarius Keys, and James Earl McClung, Jr., were developed as suspects in the shooting. Keys, accompanied by his attorney, went to the Sheriff’s Department and gave a videotaped statement to investigators implicating Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung in the shooting. Keys, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung were later indicted and charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Approximately five months after the men were indicted, Keys was shot and killed. Holland and Buchanan were considered suspects in Keys’s death. It is undisputed that at the time of Keys’s death, Jones was incarcerated. Before trial, Jones, Holland, Buchanan, and McClung moved to exclude Keys’s videotaped statement based on hearsay and the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the statement to be admitted into evidence under Mississippi Rules of Evidence 804(b)(3) (the statement-against-interest hearsay exception), 804(b)(5) (the catch-all hearsay exception), and 804(b)(6) (the forfeiture-by-wrongdoing hearsay exception). The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether that videotaped statement could be introduced against a defendant under Rule 804(b)(6). The Court found that because the record showed Jones forfeited by wrongdoing his constitutional right to confront the witness, his convictions of murder and attempted murder were affirmed. But because there was insufficient evidence presented to support Buchanan’s convictions of aggravated assault, the Court reversed and rendered a judgment of acquittal as to Buchanan. View "Buchanan v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Jeremy Harris was convicted of attempted burglary of a dwelling with the intent to commit larceny and was sentenced to a term of ten years, with five years suspended. Harris argued on appeal that the trial court erred by granting a mistrial in his first trial. As the record from the first trial was not made part of the record on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the record be supplemented. The parties were directed to file supplemental briefing if they so chose, and each filed a supplemental brief. Then after review of the entire record, the Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence, finding that the mistrial in Harris’s first trial was not manifestly necessary. In the absence of manifest necessity, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy prohibited a second trial for the same crime. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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David Dickerson was convicted by jury of killing his ex-girlfriend and mother of his daughter by shooting and then burning her. In 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Dickerson’s capital-murder conviction and sentence of death, along with related convictions and sentences for arson and armed robbery. Dickerson petitioned for post-conviction relief, arguing he was “he is intellectually disabled as defined by the Court in [Atkins] and thus he is ineligible for the death penalty.” Specifically, Dickerson insists that the PCR “and its accompanying affidavits[] contai[n] much evidence that” he “meets all three criteria for mental retardation”—“subaverage intellectual functioning[,]” “significant deficits in adaptive functioning[,]” and that the “deficits manifested before age 18.” The Supreme Court again declined post-conviction relief, finding that Dickerson’s PCR claims were barred and/or failed to present a substantial showing of the denial of a state or federal right. View "Dickerson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the State's discovery motion at Defendant's first court appearance seeking to photograph transitory scratches on Defendant's arms was not a critical stage of the criminal proceeding that required the presence of defense counsel.At Defendant's first appearance on criminal sexual conduct charges the State made a discovery motion to take photographs of transitory scratch marks on Defendant's arms. At issue was whether the discovery motion was a critical stage of the proceedings entitling Defendant to have counsel present. The court of appeals concluded that the discovery hearing on the "otherwise-valid" discovery request to noninvasively photograph scratches was not a critical stage of the proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel under the circumstances of this case. View "State v. Zaldivar-Proenza" on Justia Law