Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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Movant sought authorization to file a successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, arguing that under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), he should be allowed to challenge his 18 U.S.C. 924(c) conviction. Section 924(c) is a penalty provision that mandates an enhanced sentence for a defendant who uses or carries a firearm during, as relevant here, a "crime of violence." Movant was also convicted of 18 U.S.C. 924(j), causing the death of a person through the use of a firearm in the course of committing a section 924(c) offense. The Fourth Circuit held that second-degree retaliatory murder is a crime of violence under the force clause of section 924(c); Johnson's holding, which is limited to the residual clause, was inapplicable to movant's section 924(c) conviction; and thus the court denied the request for authorization. View "In re: James Allen Irby, III" on Justia Law

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In 2012, defendant pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine from July 2012 to August 22, 2012. In 2014, defendant was indicted in the Western District of Virginia for, among other offenses, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The Government alleged that defendant operated a vast drug trafficking organization in the same area from 1998 through 2012. The Fourth Circuit held that double jeopardy barred defendant's follow-up prosecution in the Western District of Virginia for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. 846. The court explained that there was substantial, if not complete, overlap on each element of the double jeopardy analysis. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of various drug and firearm offenses. The Fourth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of prior convictions under FRE 404(b) where the government proffered no evidence of any connection between defendant's prior possession conviction and the instant charge; that possession conviction was not relevant to whether defendant intended to distribute the marijuana found inside the locked bedroom; and there was a lack of factual similarity and temporal proximity between defendant's prior convictions and his present convictions. Furthermore, the minimal probative value of admitting the convictions was substantially outweighed by the likelihood of unfair prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed, vacated, and remanded. View "United States v. Hall, Jr." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's order of restitution that was imposed after defendant was convicted of making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the federal government in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that it was evident in this case that the district court ordered restitution pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Rights Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663; the categorical approach has no role to play in determining whether a Title 18 offense is "an offense against property" that triggers mandatory restitution under the MVRA; given the specific circumstances of defendant's section 1001 conviction, the court had little trouble finding that his false statement on the HUD-1 form was an "offense against property" under the MVRA; and the district court did not err when it determined that defendant's false statement directly and proximately caused harm to Bank of America and thus the Bank was the "victim" within the meaning of the MVRA. The court also held that the district court did not err in awarding restitution to the Bank in the amount of $1,385,444.83. View "United States v. Ritchie" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's application of a sixteen-level sentencing enhancement after pleading guilty to illegal reentry after being convicted of an aggravated felony. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that defendant's prior conviction under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2925.03(A)(2) categorically qualifies as a "drug trafficking offense" as defined in U.S.S.G. 2L1.2, cmt. n.1(B)(iv) (2015). Because the Ohio statute in this case requires that defendant have knowledge that the controlled substance is intended for sale, the statute does not apply to simple possession. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition, alleging that his guilty plea to attempted murder and a related firearm offense resulted from his trial counsel's disabling conflict of interest. Determining that the appeal was not moot, the Fourth Circuit held that the petition was timely. In this case, petitioner's limitations period commenced on December 12, 2008, when the judgment entered upon his November 2008 resentencing became final. Because his postconviction proceedings statutorily tolled the limitations period from at least January 20, 2009 through October 21, 2013, his petition was timely. Furthermore, under the exceptional circumstances presented by petitioner's case, neither procedural bar at issue was adequate to preclude federal review of petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; the Court of Special Appeals' application of Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. 7-106(b)(1)(i)(6) was inadequate to bar federal review of petitioner's claim; and the circuit court's reliance on section 7-106(b)(1)(i)(4) was inadequate to bar consideration of his ineffective assistance claim on federal habeas review. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Woodfolk v. Maynard" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his habeas corpus petition, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request an alibi instruction. The Fifth Circuit held that the post-conviction relief court's decision was a reasonable application of Strickland v. Washington. Although the parties accept for purposes of appeal that trial counsel's performance was deficient, even if the instruction had been given, there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different. Therefore, because petitioner was not prejudiced by the error, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Maurice Hope v. Warden Cartledge" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for charges related to his involvement in a retail theft scheme. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to justify the district court's decision to give the jury a willful blindness instruction and to support the jury's finding that defendant knew the property at issue was stolen. In this case, there was ample evidence from which to find that defendant subjectively believed that there was a high probability that the goods he was buying and selling were stolen. The court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges and challenges to the jury instructions; held that the evidence was sufficient to conclude that an individual who worked for defendant qualified as an employee, rather than a contractor; and rejected defendant's contention that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during his closing argument. View "United States v. Hale" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's classification of defendant as a career offender, holding that defendant's conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon under Maryland law fits comfortably within the residual clause of the career offender guideline's definition of a "crime of violence." Under Maryland law, robbery entails the carrying away of another's property "from his person or in his presence . . . by violence or putting in fear." Furthermore, the commentary on USSG 4B1.2 expressly includes robbery in a list of offenses that qualify as crimes of violence. View "United States v. Riley" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of a final order of removal, concluding that Maryland third degree burglary qualifies as a crime involving moral turpitude under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii). The Fourth Circuit explained that Maryland's third degree burglary statute, breaking and entering a dwelling of another, with the intent to commit a crime, implicates moral values beyond the duty to obey the law and inherently is base, vile, or depraved. The act of breaking and entering a dwelling, with the intent to commit any crime, necessarily involves conduct that violates an individual's reasonable expectation that her personal living and sleeping space will remain private and secure. The Fourth Circuit reasoned that an individual's expectation that her dwelling will remain private, secure, and free from intruders intending to commit a crime is violated regardless whether the dwelling is occupied at the time of the burglary. View "Uribe v. Sessions" on Justia Law