Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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After panel rehearing, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motions to suppress and his objection to application of the career criminal enhancement in USSG 4B1.1(a). Defendant robbed a Sprint Wireless Express store at gunpoint, and then left with a GPS tracker.The court concluded that the police had at least reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle where, considering the tight window of opportunity officers have to locate a fleeing suspect, it was reasonable for police to rely on third-party GPS data. Furthermore, other factors also supported the officers' suspicion, such as the store employee's description of the vehicle and the unusual behavior of the vehicle's occupants. Therefore, the totality of the circumstances gave police at least reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot, and thus stopping the vehicle to investigate that suspicion comported with the Fourth Amendment. The court also concluded that any error in denying as moot defendant's objection to evidence of a show-up was harmless after the government stated it did not intend to use the evidence at trial. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in imposing the career offender enhancement where Illinois armed robbery qualifies as generic robbery under the enumerated offense clause of section 4B1.2(a)(2). View "United States v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the South Dakota State Penitentiary's pornography policy under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff named as defendants four South Dakota corrections officials in their official capacities. The district court granted in part and denied in part the parties' motions for summary judgment.In regard to plaintiff's as-applied challenges, the Eighth Circuit applied the Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), factors and concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for plaintiff on his claim that the policy is unconstitutional as applied to two erotic novels because defendants were within their discretion to censor these books. However, the district court properly granted summary judgment for plaintiff on his claim that the policy is unconstitutional as applied to the art book and nine pictures of Renaissance artwork.In regard to plaintiff's facial challenges, the court dismissed as moot plaintiff's claim that the prohibition on nudity is overbroad, but plaintiff's claim that the prohibition on sexually explicit content is overbroad remains a live case or controversy based on the court's reversal of the district court's ruling on his as-applied challenges regarding the erotic novels. The court read the policy in light of the doctrine of constitutional avoidance and concluded that plaintiff failed to show that the policy's prohibition on sexually explicit content is "substantially overbroad." The court concluded that although plaintiff's resolution of plaintiff's as-applied challenges does not moot his claim that the policy's prohibition on sexually explicit content is overbroad, this claim fails on the merits. Finally, the court dismissed as moot plaintiff's request for coercive sanctions, denied his request for compensatory sanctions, and denied plaintiff's request for sanctions for defendants' alleged violations of the district court's orders. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sisney v. Kaemingk" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. In this case, a police officer stopped the vehicle defendant was driving for having an unsafe windshield and, during the scope of the traffic stop, the officer asked defendant to get out of the vehicle, conducted a pat down search, and discovered a handgun.The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by deciding, in the absence of disputed facts, to rule on the motion to suppress without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The court also concluded that a reasonable officer could have believed on initial observation that the cracked windshield constituted a safety defect and the officer's mistake of fact was an objectively reasonable one. Therefore, defendant was not unreasonably seized when the officer conducted the traffic stop. Furthermore, the officer did not unlawfully expand the scope or extend the stop when he asked for identification from the occupants of the vehicle. View "United States v. Foster" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for compassionate release under the First Step Act of 2018, concluding that the COVID-19 pandemic is not an extraordinary and compelling circumstance to warrant a sentence reduction in this case. The court explained that, although certainly relevant, the threat of contracting COVID-19 in the prison environment, still real at this time, is not by itself sufficient reason to modify a lawfully imposed prison sentence. Here, the district court properly looked to USSG 1B1.13 and its commentary as relevant but not binding in determining that defendant's health conditions at the time he requested a 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) sentence reduction were not extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting a reduction. Furthermore, the court concluded that the district court did not err in weighing the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors in declining to grant compassionate release. View "United States v. Marcussen" on Justia Law

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On a well-lit summer evening in a Des Moines neighborhood with community-reported drug crimes, police officers Minnehan and Steinkamp lawfully stopped Haynes for suspected (mistaken) involvement in a drug deal. The exceedingly polite and cooperative exchange between the three did not make either officer view Haynes as a safety risk. Haynes could not find his driver’s license but shared three separate cards bearing his name. Steinkamp then handcuffed him. While the polite interaction continued, the cuffs stayed on. They also stayed on after a clean frisk and a consensual pocket search. They stayed on after the officers declined Haynes’s invitation to search another pocket and Haynes’s car. The officers declined another squad car’s offer to help.The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Haynes’s Fourth Amendment claims. 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Handcuffs constitute “greater than a de minimus intrusion,” their use requires the officer to demonstrate that the facts available to the officer would warrant a man of reasonable caution in believing that the action taken was appropriate. Here, the officers failed to point to specific facts supporting an objective safety concern during the encounter. Minnehan and Steinkamp had fair notice that they could not handcuff Haynes without an objective safety concern. View "Haynes v. Minnehan" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by a pretrial detainee against prison officials, alleging violation of his constitutional rights when he was denied visitation with his children due to a blanket policy of prohibiting detainees from visitations by minor children. The court determined that its case law up to now has not necessarily made clear that the prison officials violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by enforcing the blanket prohibition on visitation with minor children, and thus qualified immunity was appropriate to protect defendants from liability.However, the court noted that the time is ripe to clearly establish that such behavior may amount to a constitutional violation in the future. The court joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that prison officials who permanently or arbitrarily deny an inmate visits with family members in disregard of the factors described in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), have acted in violation of the Constitution. View "Manning v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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After the Eighth Circuit ordered a limited remand for further consideration of defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his car, the district court entered an order denying the motion. Defendant's appeal has been resubmitted for decision, and the court now affirms the judgment.The court concluded that the district court was authorized to supplement its factual findings on remand, and there was no error in finding additional facts. The court also concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, the district court did not err in concluding that there was reasonable suspicion of drug-related activity and the brief extension of the traffic stop to facilitate a dog sniff of the vehicle was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Traylor" on Justia Law

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In 1994, the jury convicted Desmond and Jesse Rouse, their cousin Russell Hubbeling, and another cousin of sexually abusing five nieces. Defendants ultimately raised claims in Rule 60(b)(6) motions seeking relief from the dismissal of their initial 28 U.S.C. 2255 motions. The district court denied the Rule 60(b)(6) motions as successive section 2255 motions and granted certificates of appealability.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that newly discovered evidence in support of a claim previously denied and a subsequent change in substantive law justifying relief - fall squarely within the class of Rule 60(b) claims to which the Supreme Court has applied section 2244(b) restrictions. Furthermore, the motions were an improper attempt to circumvent the procedural requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty (AEDPA). Assuming arguendo that petitioners' Rule 60(b)(6) motions were not unauthorized second or successive motions subject to section 2244(b)(3), the district court did not err in determining that the allegations, including claims of newly discovered victim recantations, medical evidence and claims of juror bias, did not meet the extraordinarily high burden of proving actual innocence, a complete miscarriage of justice, or are evidence that would produce an acquittal in a new trial. View "Rouse v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography and the district court's imposition of the challenged special conditions of supervised release. However, the court remanded for the district clerk of court to amend the judgment as it relates to certain conditions of supervised release.The court concluded that defendant's sentence is not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving greater weight to the aggravating factor of an intended hands-on offense than it did to the mitigating factors argued by defendant; the district court considered all relevant factors; the district court did not consider any irrelevant or improper factors; and the district court imposed a sentence only after carefully weighing all the appropriate information before it. The court also concluded that, by conditionally reserving the right to appeal "the sentence," defendant conditionally reserved the right to appeal the special conditions of supervised release. The court further concluded that, while the district court acted within its discretion when imposing the special conditions, the written judgment is not entirely consistent with the district court's oral pronouncement at sentencing. Accordingly, the court directed the district court to amend the judgment. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law