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Meza, with his girlfriend as a passenger was driving at least 90 mph. As he applied the brakes, he lost control. The car catapulted across the median and oncoming traffic and fell down an embankment. A California Highway Patrol sergeant saw the crash and saw Meza emerge from the driver’s side of the car. Concord police officers arrived. Officer Cruz had a brief conversation with Meza while Meza was waiting for treatment by emergency medical personnel. She noted “a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth,” and blood-shot and watery eyes. Because Meza was complaining of pain, Cruz did not request field sobriety tests. She concluded that he should be arrested for driving under the influence and followed the ambulance to the hospital. The hospital drew blood, as they do for all trauma patients, and measured Meza’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.148 percent. Two hours after the accident, a second phlebotomist, summoned by Cruz, drew Meza’s blood and measured its BAC at 0.11. Cruz never attempted to get a warrant because Meza did not refuse to have his blood drawn. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress. The blood draw was inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment because exigent circumstances did not prevent officers from obtaining a warrant but the error was harmless, in light of the evidence of the hospital’s testing. View "People v. Meza" on Justia Law

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Hall was charged with first-degree murder; the information alleged that Hall personally used a knife in the commission of the crime, that he had prior serious felony convictions, and that he was subject to the three strikes law. Hall admitted to a 2010 misdemeanor conviction for carrying a concealed knife. Before trial, the court reserved judgment on the prosecutor’s motion seeking to impeach defendant with his two first-degree burglary convictions and with the misdemeanor conviction “evidence that he is known to regularly carry knives” if Hall were to “open the door” during his testimony. After the prosecution rested, the court held that both felony convictions could be used to impeach Hall, that under Evidence Code 352 the misdemeanor knife conviction was a crime of moral turpitude, and that the knife conviction could be introduced because of Hall’s statement to the police that he was a peaceful person. The court of appeal reversed. Hall did not put his character for peacefulness at issue. Nothing in his testimony opened the door to impeachment about his character or truthfulness about his character. Hall’s testimony admitted he had lied to the police because he was afraid of retribution; he did not claim to be a peaceful person and did not claim to lack violent prior convictions. View "People v. Hall" on Justia Law

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A jury found Kerley guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the death of his former girlfriend. The court sentenced Kerley to 15 years to life in state prison. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the death was a homicide; the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Kerley’s prior acts of domestic violence under Evidence Code section 11093; the jury instructions regarding the evidence of uncharged domestic violence impermissibly lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof; the admission of certain hearsay statements of the deceased violated Kerley’s confrontation clause rights; the trial court erred in admitting certain hearsay statements of the deceased and defense counsel was ineffective in failing to request a limiting instruction with respect to those statements; the evidence was insufficient to support the jury instructions regarding suppression of evidence; the trial court erred in admitting diary entries of Kerley’s daughter and in admitting evidence that Kerley destroyed a tanning bed and buried the remains of his dog in his backyard; the trial court erred in excluding Kerley’s proffered evidence of third party culpability; and that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors required reversal. View "People v. Kerley" on Justia Law

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Nicandro Galaviz was committed to a state mental health institution for a term of 60 years to life after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of possession of methamphetamine and assault with a deadly weapon. In July 2017, Galaviz filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the commitment order. Galaviz previously filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the court referred to the hearing as something “akin to a retrospective competency hearing” and denied Galaviz’s petition on the ground Galaviz failed to prove he was incompetent at the time of trial. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed with the Court of Appeal was granted; the Court found the trial court erred in 1996 by failing to hold a hearing to determine Galaviz’s competence at the time of trial. "Reports filed by mental health professionals in the months preceding trial raised serious doubt about Galaviz’s competence to stand trial. This error constitutes reversible error unless it is feasible to conduct a retrospective competency hearing to now determine whether Galaviz had been competent to stand trial in 1996. The prosecution failed to carry its burden of showing that conducting such a retrospective competency hearing is feasible based on a totality of the circumstances in this case." View "In re Galaviz" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The court held that the district court did not err by imposing sentencing enhancements under USSG 2K2.1(b)(1)(A) for three or more firearms, USSG 3B1.4 for use of a child in the commission of the offense; and USSG 2K2.1(B)(6)(b) for committing the firearm offense in connection with another felony; defendant waived his argument that the district court abused its discretion in granting the government's request to continue; even if subject to plain error review, the district court did not abuse its discretion, much less commit plain error, in granting the government's motion for a short continuance to secure the attendance of an important witness; the district court did not err by calculating defendant's base offense level as his prior conviction for assault while displaying a dangerous weapon in violation of Iowa Code Sections 708.1 and 708.2(3) was a crime of violence resulting in a base offense level of 22 under Guidelines Sec. 2K2.1(a)(3); and even if there was error, the error was harmless. View "United States v. McGee" on Justia Law

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Presiding over Wade’s 2008 sentencing for possessing child pornography, Judge Gilbert imposed a sentence of just 36 months, although the guidelines recommendation was 120 months’ imprisonment. Judge Gilbert also granted Wade an early termination of supervised release. FBI agents subsequently seized Wade’s computer when executing a search warrant and discovered over 2000 images of child pornography. Wade pled guilty under 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B). Under U.S.S.G. 2G2.2(b), his base offense was increased 13 levels due to the number and the especially odious content of the images. Wade’s total offense level of 28 and criminal history category of II would have prescribed a recommended sentence of 87-108 months’ imprisonment, but because Wade committed a repeat offense, his recommendation became the statutory minimum term: 120 months. Wade argued that the mandatory minimum term was appropriate because his addiction to pornography and his stress caused his recidivism, the guidelines accounted for the reasons the government gave for varying upwards, and he had support from family. Judge Gilbert imposed a sentence of 132 months’ imprisonment followed by 10 years’ supervised release, noting his previous leniency and expressing concern that Wade would offend again. The judge observed that “not a single 3553(a) factor” favored Wade. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The judge responded to Wade’s mitigation arguments and adequately justified Wade’s sentence, View "United States v. Wade" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part defendant's resentence. The court held that his challenges to the firearm and role-in-the-offense enhancements were meritorious because the district court plainly erred in applying them. However, defendant's challenge to the drug quantity determination failed because the district court adequately explained its judgment and its findings were supported by the record. The court vacated and remanded the sentence on the RICO conspiracy count because the parties agreed that the district court erred in stating that the Sentencing Guidelines range for the RICO conspiracy was life, rather than 360 months to life. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in admitting evidence seized as the result of an unlawful, warrantless search, a search that failed to satisfy any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, with intent to deliver. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by admitting evidence seized from his person because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant and that none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement were satisfied. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the evidence was seized unlawfully and that the admission of the evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "State v. Barefield" on Justia Law

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Laux broke into his ex‐wife’s home and murdered her with a crowbar. An Indiana jury decided that the aggravating circumstance that he committed murder during a burglary outweighed the primary mitigating circumstance that he had no criminal history and recommended a sentence of life without parole, which the court imposed. Indiana state courts affirmed Laux’s convictions and sentence. After a post‐conviction hearing, they also rejected the claim that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Laux filed a federal habeas corpus petition. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of relief, rejecting a claim that trial counsel was ineffective by not fully investigating and presenting all of the available mitigating evidence about Laux’s childhood that surfaced at his post‐conviction hearing. The state courts’ conclusion that Laux received effective assistance of counsel was not unreasonable. A defendant can often point to some additional subject and argue it should have been pursued further. The Sixth Amendment does not require counsel to investigate every conceivable line of mitigation evidence—it requires counsel to make reasonable decisions about which matters to pursue. The evidence of Laux’s childhood failed to show significant hardship; he was never a victim of abuse or neglect, was never in trouble, and excelled in high school and college. View "Laux v. Zatecky" on Justia Law

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Prisoner Timothy Pryer filed an action in chancery court against the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk. Pryer claimed that the defendants wrongfully had denied him access to public records under the Mississippi Public Records Act, entitling him to civil damages. More than three years after filing the complaint, Pryer filed a motion for leave to amend it to add a Public Records Act claim against Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, III. Pryer alleged that, in deeming his public records request a motion for post-conviction relief, and then denying it, Judge Gardner had violated the Public Records Act, entitling Pryer to civil damages. The Chancery Court of Itawamba County granted Judge Gardner’s motion to dismiss, and Pryer appealed. Because Pryer’s claim against Judge Gardner was barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of his amended complaint. View "Pryer v. Gardner" on Justia Law