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The Supreme Court affirmed the motion court’s judgment overruling Appellant’s Mo. R. Crim. P. 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing, holding that the record conclusively refuted the claims made in the motion. Appellant pled guilty to second-degree drug trafficking and was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. After Appellant violated the conditions of his release, the court revoked Appellant’s probation. Appellant filed a rule 24.035 motion challenging his drug manufacturing conviction and asserting that his plea counsel was ineffective for inducing an involuntary guilt plea. The motion court overruled the motion on the ground that the record conclusively refuted Appellant’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, when looking at the totality of the circumstances, the record conclusively refuted the claims in the amended motion. View "Ryan v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of assault, holding that Defendant was not denied a fair trial because one of the jurors reported that she had felt pressured to return a guilty verdict. After the court informed the parties of the juror’s statement and invited the parties to be heard, the court concluded that there was no evidence of juror misconduct and that the guilty verdict would stand. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because there was no evidence of outside influence, bias, or misconduct, and therefore, the juror’s statement that she felt pressured to return a guilty verdict fell within the categories of evidence prohibited from use by Me. R. Evid. 606(b)(1). View "State v. Leon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant’s convictions for unlawful imprisonment in the second degree and abuse of family or household members, holding that the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to an unwarranted attack on the person character of defense counsel and, by extension, Defendant, and the misconduct warranted vacating Defendant’s convictions. At issue on appeal was the propriety of the prosecutor’s remarks suggesting that opposing counsel attempted to induce the complaining witness to give false testimony during cross-examination. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed the judgment, holding that there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comment contributed to Defendant’s convictions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the nature of the prosecution’s remarks during closing argument, the lack of any effective curative instruction, and the relative weight of the evidence, considered collectively, made clear that there was a reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to Defendant’s convictions; and (2) the improper remarks did not clearly deny Defendant a fair trial, and therefore, the protections of double jeopardy were not implicated. View "State v. Underwood" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Williams was charged with felony receiving a stolen vehicle, Penal Code 496d(a), with allegations that Williams had served five prison sentences, one of which was a serious or violent felony. Williams pleaded no contest, admitting the special allegations. The court granted his request to dismiss the prior strike finding, imposed a suspended sentence of seven years, and granted Williams four years of formal probation. In November 2014, Williams filed a petition to recall his sentence, to reduce his conviction to a misdemeanor, and for resentencing (Penal Code 1170.18(b), (d), (f)), arguing the stolen vehicle he received was worth less than $950. Proposition 47 changed the crime of theft from a felony to a misdemeanor when the property involved was valued at $950 or less. The court denied the petition, reasoning that section 1170.18 was specific in listing the offenses that are subject to recall. The court of appeal affirmed, without prejudice to the filing of a new petition. Although section 1170.18 does not expressly reference section 496d, it does permit resentencing under section 490.2 for “obtaining any property by theft” valued at less than $950. A conviction for receiving a stolen vehicle is obtaining property by theft and qualifies for resentencing. Williams, however, failed to demonstrate the value of the stolen vehicle/ View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's 20 year sentence for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. The court held that the district court adequately conducted a de novo sentencing hearing by performing an individualized assessment of all relevant sentencing factors; the district court did not clearly err in declining to apply the acceptance-of-responsibility reduction under USSG 3E1.1; under Fourth Amendment precedent, the court was compelled to hold that kidnapping under North Carolina law was a crime of violence under USSG 4B1.2; and it was not clear that the career offender enhancement was grossly disproportionate, facially or as applied to defendant's criminal history. The court held that the district court appropriately decided not to restrict public access to the entire sentencing memorandum, but it erred by not granting the less restrictive remedy of allowing defendant to file a redacted version of the memorandum. Accordingly, the court reversed the denial of defendant's motion to seal his sentencing memorandum and remanded for the filing of a redacted version of the memorandum for public records. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of one count of first degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and other offenses and sentencing Defendant to death, holding that no prejudicial error occurred during the proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was no error in the selection of the jury; (2) the trial court properly instructed the jury; (3) the trial court did not err in its evidentiary rulings; (4) the arguments raised by Defendant regarding special circumstances issues were unavailing; and (5) no prejudicial occurred during the penalty phase proceedings. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Appellee David Ehrnstein was convicted by jury of incest against L.E. He filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that one of his trial prosecutors and the victim advocate in his case had instructed L.E. to avoid a defense subpoena. Prior to holding a hearing on that motion, the trial court found that it was compelled by the rules of professional conduct to appoint a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing. Pursuant to sections 16-12-102(2) and 20-1-107(3), C.R.S. (2017), the district attorney filed an interlocutory appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court, which was faced with deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in appointing the special prosecutor. The Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion because it misapplied the law when it concluded that Colo. RPC 3.7 required the appointment of a special prosecutor for purposes of the hearing on the new trial motion in this case. View "Colorado v. Ehrnstein" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for misusing a social security number and for the statutorily mandated two additional years in prison for aggravated identity theft. The court held that the district court did not err in considering defendant's prior unobjected-to conduct showing that defendant, then nineteen, had sex with a fifteen year old girl ten to fifteen times, in determining whether to vary upward; in denying defendant's request to move the paragraph detailing the sexual-conduct charge from the "Adult Criminal Conviction(s)" section of the PSR to the "Other Arrests" section; by imposing the $5,000 fine; in considering the pretrial services report to impeach defendants; and by imposing the fine before allocution. View "United States v. Hernandez-Espinoza" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed petitioner's new sentence after the district court vacated his original sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and again applied an enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e). The court held that petitioner's two prior Iowa assault convictions were committed on occasions different from one another and qualified as separate predicate offenses under section 924(e). Therefore, the district court properly enhanced petitioner's sentence under the ACCA and the corresponding sentencing guideline. The court also held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court had wide latitude in deciding how to weigh the relevant 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant. View "Levering v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree and other offenses, affirmed the trial judge’s order denying Defendant’s motion for a new trial, and declined to reduce or set aside Defendant’s convictions under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E. During trial, the defense attorney failed to adhere to the judge’s courtroom rules, made inappropriate comments in the presence of the jury, and interrupted the judge on multiple occasions. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge’s admonishments to defense counsel were well within the judge’s authority, and the judge’s jury instructions mitigated any potential prejudice that might have resulted from the jury observing the disputes; (2) the reconstruction of a missing portion of the record was proper and adequate; (3) there was no evidentiary error; and (4) any purported error in the Commonwealth’s closing statement was not prejudicial. Further, the Court declined to exercise its section 33E power based on friction generated as a result of the judge having to rein in defense counsel’s inappropriate courtroom conduct. View "Commonwealth v. Imbert" on Justia Law