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Plaintiffs Brewer and Brooks filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that defendants, forensic consultants, violated their constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when, as retained government experts, they provided investigators with—and later testified to—baseless findings, and that they knew that the evidence was baseless or at least acted with reckless disregard of that reality. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for defendants and held that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because they were engaged in the criminal investigative functions of the state protected at common law, and plaintiffs failed to raise a genuine issue of fact as to whether defendants violated their right to due process by intentionally creating false or misleading scientific evidence. View "Brewer v. Hayne" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief on petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (IATC). The court held that, assuming counsel's performance was deficient, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by the mitigation investigation of his trial counsel and therefore his IATC claim failed. View "Trevino v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Milwaukee police arrested Moseley at his house after M.K. accused him of domestic violence. While searching Moseley’s apartment, officers found handcuffs, rope, and other items associated with sexual bondage and seized Moseley’s computer, camera, external hard drive, and CDs and sent the electronic devices to the Department of Justice. When DOJ detectives searched the devices, they discovered nude photos of M.K. and of T.H., who worked with Moseley at a U.S. Marshal’s office. T.H. alleged that Moseley forced her into a sexual relationship by threatening her job. Her statement also chronicled his abusive behavior. The state charged Moseley with possessing nude photos of T.H. taken without her consent. Wis. Stat. 942.09(2). Moseley’s primary defense was that the two had been in a consensual relationship and that T.H. had consented to the photos. Before trial, Moseley unsuccessfully sought in camera review of T.H.’s mental-health records. Moseley was convicted. Wisconsin courts affirmed the denial of in camera review. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of federal habeas relief. The state court decisions that the records did not contain material impeachment evidence and that whether T.H. consented to the relationship was immaterial to whether she consented to the photographs, were not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. View "Moseley v. Kemper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of bestiality. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence of his admissions of guilt, in violation of the corpus delicti rule. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the State was required to prove penetration of the dog’s sex organ by a male sex organ before it could admit Defendant’s statement into evidence. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thus vacating the court of appeals opinion, holding that the State presented independent evidence that provided an inference that Defendant committed bestiality, and therefore, the trial court properly found that the corpus delicti rule was satisfied and admitted Defendant’s confessions into evidence. View "Shinnock v. State" on Justia Law

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Carl Kirk was committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 632.480 through 632.525. On appeal, the court of appeals transferred the case to the Supreme Court on the ground that the appeal involved issues within the Supreme Court’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction as set forth in Mo. Const. art. V, section 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the issues raised in this case did not fall within the Supreme Court’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction, and even thought he court of appeals erred in transferring the case, the Supreme Court granted transfer prior to opinion pursuant to Rule 83.01 and therefore had jurisdiction; (2) the SVPA, among other things, evidences no punitive intent and violates no constitutional prohibits against ex post facto laws, and the standard of proof required under the SVPA and employed in Kirk’s case is not unconstitutional; and (3) Kirk’s remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "In re Care & Treatment of Kirk" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of sale of a controlled substance and one count of unlawful possession of firearms. Defendant filed a motion for postconviction relief. The motion was premature because it was filed prior to a determination on appeal whether the judgment of conviction would be affirmed. After Defendant’s conviction was affirmed, Defendant filed a second postconviction motion alleging that the trial court erred in rejecting his speedy trial claim. The motion court dismissed the postconviction motion as “successive.” The Supreme Court vacated the dismissal of Defendant’s second postconviction and remanded, holding that, under the unusual facts of this case, the motion court should have treated the second motion as timely and as incorporating the first pro se motion. View "McKay v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Mo. Rev. Stat. 632.480 through 632.525. On appeal, the court of appeals transferred the case to the Supreme Court on the ground that the appeal involved issues within the Supreme Court’s exclusive appellate jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth in In re Care & Treatment of Kirk, __ S.W.3d __ (Mo. 2017), decided also on this day, Defendant’s constitutional claims were “merely colorable” and did not invoke the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. However, the court, on its own motion, granted transfer from the court of appeals prior to opinion pursuant to Rule 83.01 and therefore had jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s constitutional claims that the purpose and effect of the SVPA is punitive are rejected; and (2) Defendant’s remaining claims on appeal were unavailing. View "In re Care & Treatment of Nelson" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Stitt tried to shove a loaded handgun into his girlfriend’s mouth while threatening to kill her. When a neighbor called the police, Stitt fled, then surrendered to authorities after a brief foot chase. Detectives recovered the gun lying on the ground within his reach. A jury found Stitt guilty of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). Due to his nine prior “violent felony” convictions—including six for Tennessee aggravated burglary—the court sentenced Stitt under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e), to 290 months’ imprisonment. On appeal, the government conceded that the 2015 Supreme Court decision, Johnson v. United States, invalidated the violent-felony status of three of his prior offenses, leaving only his six aggravated-burglary convictions at issue. Bound by its precedent, (United States v. Nance), which held that Tennessee aggravated burglary fit the Supreme Court’s definition of “generic burglary,” the Sixth Circuit initially affirmed his sentence. On rehearing en banc, the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that Tennessee’s aggravated-burglary statute is broader than the definition of generic burglary. The court applied the categorical analysis; Tennessee’s aggravated-burglary statute is indivisible, thereby foreclosing application of the modified categorical approach. View "United States v. Stitt" on Justia Law

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The district court denied state prisoner Michael Leatherwood’s habeas application. Leatherwood pled guilty in Oklahoma state court to two counts of Rape in the First Degree and four counts of Rape in the First Degree by Instrumentation. He was sentenced to six concurrent 20-year terms and suspended the sentence except for 90 days in jail. Upon completion of his jail time, Leatherwood would serve a suspended sentence and also be under probationary supervision. Leatherwood agreed to the Special Probation Conditions. One of the Special Probation Conditions, Rule 17, required that Leatherwood “[n]ot date, socialize, or enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with any person who has children under the age of eighteen (18) years present in their residence or custody at any time.” Leatherwood would violate Rule 17 twice, and “looking at the totality” of the circumstances, including Mr. Leatherwood’s own statements and deceptive behavior, the district court concluded he knew he had violated Rule 17. At his first violation, the court revoked five years of Leatherwood’s suspended sentence; after the second violation, the court revoked the remaining fifteen years. Leatherwood was granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on his claim that revocation of his suspended sentence violated his procedural and substantial due process rights. It denied a COA on his other claims. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Tenth Circuit also denied Leatherwood’s request for additional COAs and a motion to supplement the record. View "Leatherwood v. Allbaugh" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The court held that the Allen charge was not impermissibly coercive, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in giving the charge as opposed to granting a mistrial as requested by defendant; the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; and defendant's within-Guidelines sentence was substantively reasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Herra-Herra" on Justia Law