Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit denied movant's request for authorization to file a third habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to challenge his yet-unserved sixty-month sentence for carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Movant and his coconspirators were convicted of kidnapping and repeatedly raping a 16 year old high school student, taking turns beating her with a shovel, covering her with gasoline, and burying her alive.The court rejected movant's claim under Davis v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), and held that, although Davis set aside section 924(c)(3)'s residual clause as unconstitutionally vague, it left intact the elements clause of section 924(c). Furthermore, defendant's conviction for kidnapping resulting in death satisfies the elements clause of section 924(c)(3). View "In Re: Orlando Hall" on Justia Law

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Braud was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm. Braud’s sentence was deemed served and he was immediately released on post-release supervision. His three-year period of supervision was originally scheduled to end in January 2019. Braud’s supervision required that he “not engage in conduct prohibited by law.” Braud’s supervision was revoked and reinstated three times for violations he admitted. As a result of the first two violations, the termination date of Braud’s supervision was ultimately extended to October 2020. In July 2019, the San Francisco Probation Department filed the third petition to revoke Braud’s supervision, alleging a new arrest. The trial court summarily revoked Braud’s supervision. At the formal revocation hearing, Braud admitted the violation but reserved his rights to challenge the new termination date of July 2021.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument the trial court lacked authority to extend the termination date beyond three years from his release date under section 3455(e), which imposes a three-year limit on supervision with exceptions. The court stated that it cannot presume that the trial court misunderstood or abused its discretion when it ordered the termination of Braud’s supervision extended for periods of time during which his supervision was revoked. View "People v. Braud" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Lopez was convicted of second-degree murder under a natural and probable consequences theory, Later, Senate Bill 1437 amended the natural and probable consequences doctrine as related to murder and enacted Penal Code section 1170.951, which permits a person convicted of murder under a natural and probable consequences theory to petition to have his murder conviction vacated and to be resentenced on any remaining counts if he “could not be convicted of first or second-degree murder” following the enactment of Senate Bill 1437.Lopez filed a section 1170.95 petition. The prosecutor conceded that Lopez had made a prima facie showing of entitlement to relief but opposed his petition on the ground that he could be convicted of second-degree murder under a still-valid theory— implied malice. The prosecutor bore the burden “to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the petitioner is ineligible for resentencing.” The court denied the petition, concluding that Lopez could still be convicted on an implied malice theory. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court properly applied the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard and its ruling is supported by substantial evidence. Section 1170.95 does not implicate Lopez’s federal constitutional rights to have essential facts found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. View "People v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of defendant's petition for resentencing under Penal Code section 1170.95 and request for the appointment of counsel. Defendant was convicted of second degree murder under an implied malice theory for killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The court held that defendant was convicted under a theory of actual implied malice, not malice imputed under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, and thus failed to meet the threshold requirement of showing he was convicted under a natural and probable consequences theory. Therefore, defendant failed to demonstrate eligibility under the statute. Furthermore, defendant's arguments contesting that failure have all been fairly presented by his appellate counsel, and an appellate record preserved. View "People v. Roldan" on Justia Law

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Reyes, a deputy public defender who began practicing law less than three years ago, was charged with witness tampering under Penal Code section 136.1(b)(1), which proscribes an attempt to dissuade any victim of or witness to a crime from reporting “that victimization” to law enforcement, and under section 137(b), which proscribes the attempted inducement of any person “by the use of fraud” to “withhold” “true material information pertaining to a crime” from law enforcement. The superior court granted Reyes’s motion to set aside the information.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the section 136.1(b)(1) count. Neither the statutory text, the structure of the statute, nor the legislative history addresses whether, to constitute "dissuasion," the suppressed report of “victimization” must be of a past, completed crime or may be either a past crime or an ongoing course of criminal conduct expected to continue into the future; the court resolved the ambiguity in Reyes’s favor under the rule of lenity. The court reversed the dismissal of the 137(b) count. The statute has no language requiring, even arguably, that the withholding of testimony or information to which it is directed must involve a past crime. All it requires is that the attempt to induce the withholding must be made “by the use of fraud,” which was indisputably alleged. View "People v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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Appellant Rod Jones, Jr. was charged with rape and various sexual offenses following allegations by his stepdaughter (“the victim”) of repeated sexual abuse over a period of several years. According to the victim, the first instance of abuse occurred when she was thirteen year sold. The victim did not tell anyone about these incidents for many years. because Appellant told her no one would believe her. The victim also feared what Appellant would say about her to her mother. When the victim was seventeen years old, she eventually told her mother about the abuse. Throughout the trial, defense counsel focused on discrepancies in the victim’s recounting of events in an attempt to undermine her credibility. At one point, the Commonwealth called as a witness Detective Scott Holzwarth, who interviewed the victim during the course of the investigation. The jury ultimately found Appellant guilty of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person under sixteen years of age, unlawful contact with a minor, aggravated indecent assault, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of minors, and indecent assault of a person under sixteen years of age. The trial court sentenced Appellant to an aggregate term of twenty-seven to sixty years’ imprisonment. Appellant filed a post-sentence motion, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Appellant argued, inter alia, that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing Detective Holzwarth to testify that child sexual assault victims were often unable to recall specific details and dates of sexual assaults. The Supreme Court found that expert testimony on the issue of a witness’s credibility was impermissible, as it encroached on the province of the jury to make such determinations. "While some testimony on this topic may be prohibited for impermissibly invading the jury's province of determining credibility, we disagree that all testimony will." The Court held that whether Detective Holzwarth's testimony complied with admissibility considerations was a question for the trial court upon remand. The superior court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Pennsylvania v. Jones Jr." on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Cody Kruse of: making a criminal threat (count 1); attempting to deter or prevent an executive officer from lawful performance of his duties by means of violence or threat of violence (count 2); and possession of a controlled substance (count 3). The trial court sentenced Kruse to three years and eight months in state prison. Kruse contended on appeal the trial court prejudicially erred by: (1) allowing the prosecutor to question him on cross-examination about being investigated for killing his former girlfriend’s baby; and (2) refusing to instruct the jury on Penal Code section 148(a)(1) (willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer) as a lesser included offense of Penal Code section 69 (attempting to deter an executive officer from performing any duty by means of threat or violence). Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed Kruse's convictions and sentence. View "California v. Kruse" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's determination that petitioner was removable for having committed an aggravated felony by violating California Health & Safety Code 11359. The panel held that petitioner's violation of section 11359 constitutes an aggravated felony for purposes of the INA, as decided by Roman-Suaste v. Holder, 766 F.3d 1035 (9th Cir. 2014).The panel joined the Second, Third, and Eleventh Circuits in deciding that, when conducting a categorical analysis for removability based upon a state criminal conviction, it is proper to compare drug schedules at the time of the petitioner's underlying criminal offense, not at the time of the petitioner's removal. Because the California and federal definitions of marijuana were identical at the time of petitioner's guilty plea, the panel concluded that his conviction was a categorical match with the generic federal offense. Therefore, petitioner is removable. The panel also affirmed the BIA's decision to deny petitioner's claim for deferral of removal under the CAT. View "Medina-Rodriguez v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the ruling of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to classify him as a domestic violence victim pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 439.3401(5), holding that the evidence was sufficient to satisfy Defendant's burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he was a victim of domestic violence.Defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree for the death of his wife. Defendant moved the trial court to classify him as a domestic violence victim, which would reduce his parole eligibility from eighty-five percent of his sentence to twenty percent of his sentence. The trial court denied the motion, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant successfully connected the physical and verbal domestic violence he experienced to the crime he committed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant proved that he was a victim of domestic violence in regard to the manslaughter of his wife. View "Commonwealth v. Crowe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's drug-related convictions, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.After he was arrested and indicted, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized during a traffic stop, arguing that the law enforcement officer impermissibly prolonged the stop to facilitate a dog sniff search. The trial court denied the request. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the actions taken to facilitate the arrest of Defendant's passenger did not impermissibly extend his traffic stop, and therefore, the trial court correctly denied Defendant's motion to suppress the evidence resulting from the subsequent use of the narcotics dog. View "Rhoton v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law