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Defendants Silva and Medina, members of the Headhunters gang, appealed their convictions for four counts of attempted murder and four counts of assault with a firearm. Medina also appealed his sentence. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the kill zone instruction is not appropriate in the absence of evidence indicating the defendant had a primary target, and the specific intent to kill everyone in the kill zone around the primary target to ensure the target's death. In this case, it was error to instruct the jury on a kill zone theory where there was no evidence that defendants had a primary target. However, the error was harmless because it was not reasonably probable that the jury would have reached a result more favorable to defendants had the kill zone instruction not been given. View "People v. Medina" on Justia Law

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Wanjiku pled guilty to transportation of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252A, retaining his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress photographs and videos recovered from his cell phone, laptop, and external hard drive during a warrantless border search at O’Hare International Airport. Wanjiku was caught up in a law enforcement investigation targeting men with prior criminal histories, traveling alone, and returning from countries known for “sex tourism” and sex trafficking. Wanjiku met the criteria and was chosen for a search before his plane landed; he was evasive and nervous during primary questioning. While searching his luggage, agents found syringes, condoms, medication for treating low testosterone, and oxycodone. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. The agents acted in good faith when they searched the devices with reasonable suspicion to believe that a crime was being committed, at a time when no court had ever required more than reasonable suspicion for any search at the border. That reasonable suspicion is measured at the time of the search. Although the Supreme Court has recently granted heightened protection to cell phone data, its holdings have not addressed searches at the border where the government’s interests are at their zenith nor have they addressed data stored on other electronic devices. View "United States v. Wanjiku" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant’s conviction of three counts of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, holding that Defendant’s sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable. Defendant received a within-guidelines sentence of forty-years’ imprisonment in connection with his conviction. On appeal, Defendant argued that his sentence was based on unreliable information in his presentence report, that the district court did not adequately consider his argument that the relevant sex offense guidelines are not supported by empirical evidence, and that his sentence was greater than necessary to achieve deterrence and did not take into account his ability to rehabilitate. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant did not undermine either the procedural or substantive reasonableness of his within-the-range sentence. View "United States v. Santiago-Colon" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for distribution of over 50 grams of methamphetamine. The court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting an out-of-court statement made by a confidential informant, an officer's photographs, and a recording of a telephone conversation between the informant and defendant. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable, and the district court adequately explained its decision to credit the testimony of defendant's coconspirators about drug quantities despite the acquittal on the conspiracy count. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court, after a bench trial, finding Defendant “not guilty” of felony sexual misconduct involving a child by indecent exposure because the statute under which he was charged was unconstitutionally overbroad as applied to Defendant’s case, holding that, based on the record, the Court was unable to ascertain the precise nature of the circuit court’s ruling. On appeal, the State argued that the circuit court’s judgment was equivalent to a dismissal of the indictment following a guilty verdict, and therefore, Defendant was not acquitted of the offense. In response, Defendant argued that the circuit court’s judgment was a judgment of acquittal because the circuit court expressly found him not guilty. Therefore, Defendant argued, the appeal was barred by double jeopardy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions to enter a new judgment, holding that the Court could not consider the appeal or motion to dismiss on the merits because the Court was unable to determine if the judgment was an acquittal or a dismissal. View "State v. Ward" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ of mandamus to compel the circuit court to dismiss with prejudice Relator’s charge of driving while intoxicated, holding that Relator did not demonstrate a clear and unequivocal right to the dismissal of his charge because the plain language of Mo. Rev. Stat. 577.037.2 does not require a pretrial hearing or pretrial determination on the motion. Relator filed a motion under section 577.037.2 asserting that because the chemical analysis demonstrated that his blood alcohol concentration was under the legal limit, and because the State did not present evidence to prove the dismissal was unwarranted, the charge should be dismissed. The circuit court overruled the motion. Relator then sought a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court quashed its preliminary writ of mandamus, holding (1) a pretrial hearing or pretrial determination on the section 577.037.2 motion is not required; (2) the circuit court has discretion to order that a hearing and determination on the motion be deferred until trial; and (3) because the circuit court’s overruling of the motion effectively deferred the matter until trial, Relator could seek relief on appeal. View "State ex rel. McCree v. Honorable Wesley Dalton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the suspension of Appellant’s driver’s license for driving while intoxicated, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) the filing of a report with the department of health and senior services showing that a driver’s blood alcohol content was over the legal limit is a collateral requirement that does not affect the performance of the test or its validity or accuracy, and therefore, the failure to timely make that filing was not preclude admission of the report; (2) the implied consent notice complied with due process because it accurately informed Appellant that his license would be suspended immediately if he refused the breath test; and (3) a later notice of suspension given Appellant after he failed the breath test accurately informed him of the facts statutorily required to suspend his license and how to request a hearing. View "Carvalho v. Director of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the circuit court overruling motions to retax court costs after each movant had his jail board bill taxed as costs against him by the circuit court, holding that no statutory authority exists to treat jail board bills as court costs. Both movants were sentenced to a term in jail. The circuit clerks taxed to the movants as court costs a jail board bill. The movants later filed motions to retax costs, arguing that the circuit court had no statutory authority to tax their board bills as court costs. The circuit courts overruled the motions. The Supreme Court reversed the rulings on both motions and remanded with direction for the circuit court to retax the costs by removing the board bill liability of the movants under Mo. Rev. Stat. 221.070 from their respective fee reports, holding that the circuit courts erred in taxing as court costs the movants’ board bills, as express statutory authority permitting jail board bills to be taxed as court costs does not exist. View "State v. Richey" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Washington Supreme Court: Is the denial of a personal restraint petition final when the Washington Supreme Court denies a motion to modify an order of its Commissioner denying discretionary review of the state appellate court's denial, or is the denial not final until the Clerk of the Washington Court of Appeals issues a certificate of finality as required by Rule 16.15(e)(1)(c) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure? View "Phonsavanh Phongmanivan v. Haynes" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma charged Raymond Johnson with one count of first-degree arson and two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his former girlfriend, Brooke Whitaker, and the couple’s seven-month-old daughter. The charges stemmed from Johnson’s brutal attack on Whitaker with a hammer, after which he doused her with gasoline and set her house on fire, killing both victims. The jury convicted Johnson on all three counts. The Oklahoma jury subsequently concluded that the mitigating evidence did not outweigh four aggravating circumstances surrounding the murders. The jury sentenced Johnson to death. Johnson petitioned for habeas relief when state courts denied relief, allegeing ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court denied relief, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal granted a certificate of appealability on four issues: (1) whether Johnson’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the exclusion of certain mitigating evidence; (2) whether his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and develop certain mitigating evidence and present additional witnesses, and whether his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issues on direct appeal; (3) whether Johnson’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise claims of prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) cumulative error. The Tenth Circuit considered Johnson's habeas petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death-Penalty Act, but only if the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unreasonably applied federal law in denying his claims. The Tenth Circuit concluded Johnson could not meet that burden, and therefore denied the district court’s denial of Johnson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. View "Johnson v. Carpenter" on Justia Law