Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Defendant appealed his conviction after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Defendant's counsel moved on appeal for leave to withdraw and filed a brief and a supplemental brief in accordance with Anders v. California. Because counsel communicated with defendant, in a language defendant understands, the substance of the Anders brief and defendant's rights under Anders, defendant's due process rights were not violated. The court concurred with counsel's assessment that the appeal presented no nonfrivolous issue for appellate review. Accordingly, the court granted counsel's motion for leave to withdraw and excused counsel from further responsibilities herein. The court dismissed the appeal. View "United States v. Moreno-Torres" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty of being an alien present in the United States after deportation and conceded that he had been previously convicted of felony theft under Texas Penal Code 31.03(a). On appeal, defendant challenged his sentence enhancement based on the prior conviction. The court concluded that the Texas crime of theft was an aggravated felony where it is in the same category as theft without consent. In either case, the owner denies consent to the wrongdoer who takes or exercises control of property. Accordingly, the court affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Rodriguez-Salazar" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, appealed the district court's holding that her Rule 60(b) motion was a successive writ. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the motion was a successive habeas petition where petitioner's claim that counsel failed to discover and present additional evidence was fundamentally substantive; denied the application for a second or successive habeas petition where petitioner failed to argue, nor could she, that her claim is based on a new rule of constitutional law; denied the application for a certificate of appealability; and denied the motion for stay of execution. View "In re: Lisa Coleman" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to being an alien found unlawfully present in the United States after deportation. Defendant challenged the district court's determination that his 2011 Texas conviction qualified as either a "drug trafficking offense" under U.S.S.G. 2L1.2 of the guidelines or an "aggravated felony" under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2). The court held that, although Texas's statutory framework leaves open the theoretical possibility that a defendant can be convicted under Texas Health & Safety Code 481.112(a) for conduct that would not qualify as a federal drug trafficking offense, defendant failed to establish a realistic probability that Texas would apply its statute in such a manner. The court held that the district court was correct in determining that defendant's Texas conviction was both a drug trafficking offense and an aggravated felony. Accordingly, the court affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Teran-Salas" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from defendant's alleged leadership in the Texas Mexican Mafia. The first case stemmed from charges of racketeering, including the commission of two murders in aid of racketeering. While defendant was awaiting sentencing in the first case, he assaulted a correctional officer. The second case concerns the assault. The court concluded that the district court properly admitted the historical cell site location data, that roughly indicated where he was, at trial; the court rejected defendant's contention that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the racketeering conspiracy charge; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of the murder of Chris Mendez in aid of racketeering; and the court rejected defendant's claims of error regarding discovery and remaining trial issues. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Guerrero" on Justia Law

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Willie Tyrone Trottie, scheduled to be executed in Texas, filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments based on the method of his execution. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Trottie's motion for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order where Trottie has failed to show a likelihood of success on his constitutional claims. View "Trottie v. Livingston, et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for attempting to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The court disagreed with the district court's conclusion that defendant took a substantial step toward enticing a minor to engage in illegal sex simply by sending a sexually explicit photograph of himself and asking that it be shown to the girls. The court found, however, that a reasonable trier of fact could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's conduct approached the line between despicable lawful conduct and criminal attempt and crossed it when he instructed the undercover police officer to perform sex acts on and procure birth control for the minors to get them ready for him. Therefore, defendant's "grooming behavior" - against the backdrop of conversations with an undercover officer and together with his specific discussions about travel and transmittal of sexually explicit photographs with instructions they be shown to the minors - constituted a substantial step. The court rejected defendant's constitutional challenges and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Howard" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for violating Article 120, sodomy of a child under 12 years old, and Article 134, indecency with a child under 16 years old. At issue was whether the Attorney General's "interim rule" of February 28, 2007, which required pre-enactment sex offenders to comply with the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16911 et seq., was a "valid" promulgation. The court answered in the affirmative and concluded that United States v. Johnson was controlling. Johnson compelled the court to conclude that SORNA became effective as to defendant on February 28, 2007, the date that the Attorney General issued his interim rules specifying SORNA's applicability to pre-enactment sex offenders, and defendant's failure to update his registration continued until after that date. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment finding him guilty of failing to update his registration under 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). View "United States v. Torres" on Justia Law

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Defendants Vasquez and Echeverria appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute. The court concluded that the considerable evidence demonstrated that Echeverria knowingly agreed and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy; Echeverria's sentence was substantively reasonable; the district court did not commit plain error and Vasquez's Burton v. United States claim, that his conviction violates the Confrontation Clause, was rejected by the court; and Vasquez's remaining arguments failed to identify any reversible error. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Vasquez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, was granted a certificate of appealability (COA) from the district court on eight claims related to the ineffective assistance of counsel; petitioner's right to be present at trial; a Massiah claim; Giglio/Napue claim and Brady claim; cumulative errors; jurors lying about their criminal backgrounds; jury communication with the court and bailiff outside of petitioner's and his counsel's presence; and shackling during the punishment phase. The court held that petitioner has established cause to excuse the procedural default of his claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel at sentencing where counsel's performance was deficient because he failed to conduct a mitigation investigation. The court remanded this claim for the district court to consider whether petitioner can prove prejudice. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court as to the other claims. View "Canales, Jr. v. Thaler" on Justia Law