Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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Defendant-appellant D.H. (minor) had a history of defiant and criminal behavior, resulting in him being placed on formal probation in two juvenile delinquency matters. Throughout his probationary period, D.H. violated the law and the terms and conditions of his probation. While still on probation, the juvenile court dismissed the Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petitions and terminated D.H.'s probation as unsuccessfully completed based on a joint request from the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) and the probation department to transfer jurisdiction to the dependency court under section 300. D.H. requested the juvenile court seal his section 602 juvenile delinquency records, and the juvenile court denied his request. On appeal, D.H. argued the juvenile court was required to seal his records under Welfare and Institutions Code section 786 (e). Alternatively, he contended the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying his motion to seal his records under section 786(a). Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re D.H." on Justia Law

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The owner told officers that he suspected Nasir used unit C69 for drug activity and provided a photograph of the inside, showing coolers and a box of baggies. The police learned that Nasir had felony drug convictions. They visited unit C69 with a drug detection dog, who positively alerted. Waiting for a search warrant, the officers stopped Nasir. In his SUV, they found a key to unit C69, which contained marijuana, scales, and packaging materials. They obtained a search warrant for Nasir’s home and any vehicles on the property. The officers found $5,000 in cash in the house and several handguns with ammunition in a Dodge parked on the property.Nasir was indicted under the crack house statute; for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute; and as a felon in possession of a firearm. His motion to suppress was denied. Nasir stipulated that before the date when he allegedly possessed the firearm, he had been “convicted of a felony crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year." Convicted, Nasir was sentenced as a career offender based on Virginia convictions for attempting to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and for possession of cocaine and marijuana.The Third Circuit affirmed in part, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his crack house conviction because the section under which he was convicted does not make it unlawful to store drugs, that the officer who searched the Mercury did not have probable cause, and that a juror was avowedly partial. Career offender enhancement should not have applied; one of his convictions does not qualify as a “controlled substance offense.” The court vacated the firearm conviction; the government did not prove that Nasir knew he was a felon, as required by the Supreme Court’s 2019 Rehaif holding. View "United States v. Nasir" on Justia Law

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Donald has glaucoma and keratoconus, a thinning of the cornea that causes distorted vision. To treat his keratoconus, Donald had left-eye corneal transplant surgery in 2011. A few years later, Donald was convicted of drug crimes. He began his prison sentence at Illinois River Correctional Facility in 2014. His eye problems started flaring up, causing redness and poor vision. He was subsequently seen by Illinois River’s optometrists and at Illinois Eye Center several times. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with a rupture of the globe, an irreversible loss of vision in his left eye. After surgery, pathological tests revealed that the infection that led to the ruptured globe was caused by bacteria that can act very quickly and cause perforation in as few as 72 hours. Donald filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The undisputed evidence shows that the defendants did not act with deliberate indifference toward an objectively serious medical condition and the district court appropriately exercised supplemental jurisdiction to dispose of the malpractice claim. View "Donald v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2001, Penn State’s former president, Spanier, and others decided not to report to state authorities suspected sexual abuse of children involving the school’s football program and Jerry Sandusky, the well-known defensive coordinator for Penn State’s football team. In 2007, Pennsylvania amended the statutory definition of child endangerment and its statute of limitations. In 2012, Spanier was charged. The jury was instructed in language that tracked the post-amendment statute. The Commonwealth argued that Spanier engaged in a course of conduct endangering child welfare until 2012, and therefore he “was charged well within the applicable statute of limitation.” In affirming Spanier’s 2017 conviction, the state court concluded that Spanier's conduct violated the 1995 statute as interpreted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2015. The federal district court granted Spanier’s federal habeas corpus petition and vacated his conviction.The Third Circuit reversed. The Pennsylvania court’s affirmance of Spanier’s conviction, based on its conclusion that his conduct was covered by the 1995 statute was not “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court.” While that court applied state supreme court precedent post-dating the conduct in question, the supreme court’s interpretation of the statute was not unforeseeable nor indefensible. View "Spanier v. Director Dauphin County Probation Services" on Justia Law

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Defendant Scott Tignor pled guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. At the time he pled guilty, Tenth Circuit case law held a person would incur guilt by knowingly possessing a firearm after obtaining a felony conviction. Under this law, defendants would remain guilty even if they had not known that their prior convictions involved felonies. Soon after the guilty plea, the case law changed when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), which held the government needed to prove that the defendant knew his status prohibited possession of a firearm. Given that holding, in this case, the government needed t prove Tignor had known his prior conviction was punishable by more than a year in prison. Invoking Rehaif, Tignor asked the Tenth Circuit to vacate his guilty plea because he wasn’t told about the newly recognized element. For this issue, the parties agreed that the plain-error standard applied. Under this standard, the Tenth Circuit considered whether Tignor showed a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty if he’d known that the government needed to prove knowledge of his prohibited status. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded Tignor lacked a plausible defense, and affirmed his conviction. View "United States v. Tignor" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's denial of her motion to reduce her sentence under Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018. Most of defendant's arguments on appeal were rejected in the Eighth Circuit's recent decisions resolving First Step Act issues.However, the court agreed with defendant's contention that the district court erred in determining her amended guidelines sentencing range under the Act. Because the record does not permit the court to determine whether this error was harmless under the Supreme Court's rigorous standard governing procedural Guidelines errors, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Holder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of "dealing in a look-a-like substance," a level five felony under Ind. Code 35-48-4-4.6, holding that trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.At a casino, Defendant offered to sell a substance to a stranger, who reported the incident. Thereafter, a Gaming Enforcement Agent led Defendant to an interview room and proceeded to pat him down. The trial court admitted the evidence discovered as a result of the pat down. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the search and seizure proceeded within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence obtained as a result. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

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Willis was charged in Kentucky state court with murder, possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, and first-degree possession of a controlled substance. The gun charge was severed from the other charges before trial. Willis obtained a directed verdict on the drug charge and was acquitted on the murder charge; he was convicted of the lesser offense of reckless homicide and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The federal government indicted Willis as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g) the following month. The Commonwealth dismissed the state gun charge. Willis filed an unsuccessful motion to dismiss for prosecutorial vindictiveness, then moved to dismiss based on double jeopardy, reasoning that he was previously convicted of committing reckless homicide with the same handgun.The district court denied that motion, holding that neither double jeopardy nor collateral estoppel applies when two sovereigns prosecute a defendant based on the same underlying conduct. Willis was not the victim of a “sham prosecution,” an exception to the dual sovereignty doctrine. The Sixth Circuit dismissed Willis’s appeal. In addition to his double jeopardy claim being barred by the dual sovereignty doctrine, Willis did not have a colorable claim because the federal offense and the state crime have different elements. View "United States v. Willis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals granting the motion filed by Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge William T. McGinty to dismiss Appellants' action seeking a writ of prohibition to prevent McGinty from enforcing a discovery order, holding that a writ of prohibition was not the correct mechanism to challenge Judge McGinty's order.Kaylynn Counts, who allegedly assaulted Appellants, was awaiting trial before Judge McGinty when she filed a motion requesting an order allowing her to inspect and photograph Appellants' home to aid in "forensically recreating the incident" for her case. Judge McGinty granted the motion. Appellants then filed this action, arguing that Marsy's Law and the Fourth Amendment deprived Judge McGinty of the authority to issue the order permitting Counts and the defense team to have access to Appellants' residence. The court of appeals dismissed the prohibition action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that while crime victims have a right under the Ohio Constitution to judicial review of discovery orders affecting their Marcy's Law rights, a writ of prohibition was not the appropriate remedy to challenge Judge McGinty's discovery order, and moreover, Appellants had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law by way of an appeal. View "State ex rel. Thomas v. McGinty" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the first degree, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and improper disposition of a human body, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his cell site information (CSLI) because it was obtained by police without a warrant and that a subsequent search pursuant to a warrant for the same information was tainted by the initial warrantless search. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in failing to suppress Defendant's CSLI, and the motion judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial and for an evidentiary hearing on this same basis; (2) trial counsel's failure to move to suppress the fruits of the initial illegal search did not result in a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice; and (3) there was no reason to grant a new trial or set aside the jury's verdict under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. View "Commonwealth v. Wilson" on Justia Law