Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to a police officer in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the officer used excessive force in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that a jury could find that a reasonable officer in defendant's position would not have interpreted plaintiff's actions as noncompliance and would have known that plaintiff posed neither an immediate threat to anyone's safety nor a flight risk. The court also held that it was clearly established that an officer could not forcefully take down plaintiff -- who was a nonviolent, nonthreatening misdemeanant who was not actively resisting arrest or attempting to flee -- in the violent and uncontrolled manner that defendant did. View "Karels v. Storz" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty to possession of identification documents, possession of counterfeit access devices, and possession of access-device-making equipment and aggravated identity theft. The court held that the appeal waiver was ambiguous and must be read against the government and in favor of a defendant's appellate rights. The court held that counsel was not ineffective for failing to raise an argument foreclosed by U.S. v. Thomas, 841 F.3d 760 (8th Cir. 2016) regarding Guidelines Sec. 2B1.1. The court rejected defendant's claim that her attorney was ineffective for failing to encourage her to write a pre-sentencing letter regarding her acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Parrott" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for possessing a firearm and ammunition as a felon. The court held that the district court erred in determining that defendant's prior North Dakota conviction for aggravated assault was a crime of violence under the Guidelines because the conviction satisfied neither the force clause nor the enumerated-offenses clause of the definition of a crime of violence in the Guidelines. Therefore, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief from his death sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that, because the district court's partial grant of petitioner's rule 59(e) motion was not subject to this appeal, the court did not address the merits of the district court's application of Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), and its finding of extraordinary circumstances. The court also held that the district court's finding that petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance was supported by the evidence. Therefore, the district court properly concluded that petitioner established ineffective assistance of counsel. The court agreed with the district court that, as to Ground I, petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion was not a successive claim under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b). Finally, the district court did not err in denying respondent's Rule 59(e) motion; the judgment granting habeas relief was not the result of any manifest error; and the motion was not supported by any showing of extraordinary circumstances. View "Barnett v. Roper" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence. Defendant argued that he did not have the requisite three prior violent felony convictions under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) because his two Arkansas convictions for first-degree terroristic threatening were not violent felonies. The court held that it's decision in United States v. Myers, 896 F.3d 866 (8th Cir. 2018), that Section 5-13-301(a)(1)(A), the Arkansas first-degree terroristic threatening statute, is divisible and requires the modified categorical approach was controlling in this case where the state court documents that may be examined established that defendant was twice convicted of the ACCA violent felony of threatening to use physical force against another person. The court also held, in the alternative, that Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), did not announce a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted and sentenced for attempted exploitation of a child, attempted receipt of images depicting sexual exploitation of a child, possession of counterfeit obligations, two counts of attempted witness tampering, and attempted travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The Eighth Circuit rejected all of defendant's challenges to the convictions but one. The court held that there was insufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction for attempted travel. Therefore, the court remanded for resentencing based on the remaining five counts. View "United States v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of abusive sexual contact with A.W., a minor and enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying Rule of Evidence 412 and refusing to admit testimony that the victim had been sexually assaulted by other men after the incidents involving defendant; defendant's right to present his defense was not unduly, nor unconstitutionally, hindered by his inability to cross-examine the witness and the interviewers about later-occurring sexual abuse by other adults; and the district court properly excluded the evidence under Rule 403. View "United States v. Hawkghost" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child by force, and incest in Indian Country. The court held that Count 2 (aggravated sexual abuse of a child) and Count 5 (incest in Indian Country) required proof of different elements and were not multiplicitous; the district court properly refused to include defendant's jury instruction for aggravated sexual abuse of a child; the evidence was insufficient to support defendant's convictions for attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child; the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions for aggravated sexual abuse of a child; and the evidence was insufficient to support defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a child by force. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "United States v. Robert Fool Bear, Sr." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's claim seeking post-conviction relief as untimely. Petitioner asserted that, in light of Johnson v. United States, the district court violated his rights under the Due Process Clause by sentencing him as a career offender based on the residual clause of USSG 4B1.2(a)(2). The court explained that whether Johnson restarted the one-year limitations period turns on whether Johnson "newly recognized" this asserted right. In this case, petitioner's asserted right was not dictated by Johnson. Rather, the better view was that Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017), leaves open the question of whether the mandatory guidelines are susceptible to vagueness challenges. The court held that, because the question remains open, and the answer was reasonably debatable, Johnson did not recognize the right asserted by petitioner. Therefore, petitioner could not benefit from the limitations period in 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(3), and the district court correctly dismissed his motion as untimely. View "Russo v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the procedural element of the new substantive rule of constitutional law made retroactive in Montgomery v. Louisiana did not apply in this case and the district court did not err in denying successive habeas relief. The court held that petitioner's life sentence for conspiracy was based on conspiratorial conduct which extended well into his adult years and the sentence was imposed under an advisory guidelines regime that allowed the district court to consider his early participation as a juvenile, as well as other relevant mitigating factors. The court also held that petitioner's sentence of life plus 60 years did not violate the Eighth Amendment and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying more comprehensive resentencing after it vacated his mandatory life sentence on one count under Miller v. Alabama and resentenced him. View "Wright v. United States" on Justia Law