Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

by
The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for bank robbery and rejected defendant's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court held that, even assuming that counsel was inadequately prepared, defendant failed to show that this caused him to plead guilty; defendant's contention that counsel failed to object to an erroneous finding by the district court was based on a mischaracterization of the record; and defendant failed to allege that the purported conflict of interest actually affected his counsel's performance. Finally, the court held that the record established that the trial judge did not attempt to influence or coerce defendant into taking a plea, nor did the judge otherwise inappropriately participate in plea bargaining. View "United States v. Smoot" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and first-degree child sexual abuse with aggravating circumstances. The court held that there was no improper expert testimony on DNA evidence; the photo array from which the victim identified defendant was not impermissibly suggestive; and the statements defendant made to the police were voluntary. View "United States v. Kelsey" on Justia Law

by
Appellant moved to vacate his rape and murder conviction under 28 U.S.C. 2255 and the holding in Napue v. Illinois, 360 U.S. 264 (1959), after the government conceded that the testimony of a forensic expert was false and misleading and that the government knew or should have known so at the time of appellant's trial. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of appellant's section 2255 motion, holding that he demonstrated a reasonable likelihood that the forensic expert's admittedly false testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. In this case, without the agent's hair-comparison testimony, there was a reasonable likelihood that the jury could have accepted appellant's defense theory that he had been in the victim's apartment, but not during the day of her rape and murder. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Ausby" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea and affirmed the district court's judgment. In this case, defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States and then later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. The court held that defendant's plea proceeding substantially complied with the requirements of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 and that any deviations were harmless; the district court communicated the essential information required by Rule 11(b)(1)(M); and defendant had actual notice of the possibility of forfeiture through the indictment. The court also held that the fact that defendant did not assert a viable claim of innocence lends further support to the district court's decision not to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. As to sentencing issues, the court held that the district court did not err by applying 12 points in sentencing enhancements and in denying defendant a three point adjustment for acceptance of responsibility. Finally, the court rejected defendant's challenges to the forfeiture element of his sentence. View "United States v. Leyva" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was whether the Ex Post Facto Clause forbids applying a current U.S. Sentencing Commission policy statement, which offers sentence reductions only to those defendants whose original sentences are not already below newly reduced guideline ranges, to a defendant whose crime occurred before that version of the policy statement took effect. Defendant claimed that he could have gotten a sentence reduction under the version of the policy statement in effect at the time of his crime. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a sentence reduction and held that the 2006 version of USSG 1B1.10 did not apply to defendant in the first place, and thus applying its amended 2016 counterpart did not make his punishment more onerous than it otherwise would have been. Therefore, the court joined the unanimity of circuits that have held that the 2006 version of the policy statement did not by its own terms give persons in defendant's position the opportunity he claims for a reduced sentence. The court also held that the amendment's prohibition on below-guideline sentence reductions was a permissible exercise of the Sentencing Commission's discretion to determine and limit the retroactivity of its amendments. View "United States v. Alvaran-Velez" on Justia Law

by
Felons are not among the law-abiding, responsible citizens entitled to the protections of the Second Amendment. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action seeking to enjoin the enforcement of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which prohibits anyone convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year from owning firearms for life. The court held that, in this applied challenge, plaintiff failed to show facts about his conviction that distinguished him from other convicted felons encompassed by the section 922(g)(1) prohibition. In this case, plaintiff was convicted as a felon for falsifying his income on mortgage applications twenty-seven years ago. View "Medina v. Whitaker" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, one count of accessory after the fact for the murder of an officer or employee of the United States, and one count of accessory after the fact to the attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States. The court held that, even if the district court had intended to consider defendant's murder of a Mexican national in Mexico as relevant conduct under USSG 1B1.3(a)(1)(A), it would not have been able to do so because the relevant conduct Guidelines could not be used to calculate the base offense level of an act that did not qualify as "racketeering activity." The error sufficiently prejudiced defendant, and the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Flores" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit affirmed, on alternative grounds, the district court's denial of defendant's motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255. The district court denied the motion on the merits. The court held, however, that defendant procedurally defaulted on his claim by failing to preserve it for review and failed to demonstrate the prejudice necessary to obtain post-conviction relief. In this case, the district court's application of USSG 3C1.2 had no effect on the sentence imposed. View "United States v. Hicks" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of conspiracy to distribute, and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, 100 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to prove that defendant was responsible for 100 grams or more of heroin where the jury could have concluded that when a local drug dealer said he gave defendant 100 grams, the dealer in fact gave defendant 100 grams. The court need not resolve defendant's challenges to the district court's alternative rationales. View "United States v. Durrette" on Justia Law

by
DC Code 24-409 generally requires the Commission to hold an offender’s first DC parole hearing at his DC parole eligibility date, and that rule also applies to offenders, like plaintiff, who become eligible for DC parole before their projected federal parole date. Plaintiff, a federal prisoner, filed suit against members of the U.S. Parole Commission, alleging that the Commissioners had unlawfully delayed his first hearing for parole from his DC sentence. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Commissioners, holding that plaintiff's first DC parole hearing was unlawfully delayed. In plaintiff's case, the projected federal parole date came after the single parole eligibility date. Therefore, under section 24-409, plaintiff should have received his first parole hearing as soon as he finished serving his DC minimum sentence. The court remanded for the Commission to reconsider each of its prior parole decisions and to hold a new parole hearing. View "Ford v. Massarone" on Justia Law