Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 240 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography. The court held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court carefully considered several factors when deciding to impose the statutory maximum sentence, as recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines. In this case, the district court considered that the plea deal allowed defendant to escape a longer sentence for sexually exploiting his girlfriend's thirteen year old daughter; defendant's distribution of child pornography; and defendant's lack of violent criminal history and demonstrated remorse. The court also held that the special condition of supervised release prohibiting defendant from viewing or possessing erotica or pornographic materials was not constitutionally vague or overbroad under the court's precedents. View "United States v. Sebert" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's 60 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to firearm offenses. The court held that defendant's New York conviction for attempted second-degree robbery was a crime of violence under the force clause of USSG 4B1.2(a); any error was harmless where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and stated that it would have imposed the same sentence regardless of its ruling on the crime of violence issue; the district court did not err by imposing three criminal history points for the offense based on its determination that this was an adult conviction, and any error was harmless; and any error in using the 2015 rather than the 2016 Sentencing Guidelines Manual was harmless because the relevant provisions were identical in the two versions. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's three year sentence for violating his supervised release conditions. In this case, while defendant was on supervised release for a burglary covered by the Major Crimes Act, he had several encounters with police and eventually admitted to using marijuana. The court held that defendant's sentence did not exceed the statutory maximum because his original crime, burglary, was a Class B felony under 18 U.S.C. 3559(a)(2). The court also held that defendant's three year revocation sentence was within the statutory maximum provided by 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(3). View "United States v. Steele" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendants Farah, Daud, and Omar's convictions and sentences for several federal offenses related to their participation in a conspiracy to join the foreign terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The court held that the record demonstrated that the district court conducted a sufficient inquiry into Farah's concerns about his attorney; the district court did not improperly instruct the jury as to conspiracy to commit murder and any error was harmless where there was overwhelming evidence that all three defendants understood they would engage in killing if they reached Syria; the district court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on the affirmative defenses of combatant immunity and defense of others; the district court did not procedurally err by failing to consider the need to avoid disparities between their sentences and those of their coconspirators who entered guilty pleas; and defendants' sentences were not substantively reasonable where the district court varied below a properly calculated guidelines range. View "United States v. Farah" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's term of supervised release, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that he violated his conditions of release by possessing ammunition as a felon. In this case, given the evidence of defendant's dominion over the bedroom and the presence of his personal effects in the drawer, the district court did not clearly err in finding that he constructively possessed the ammunition and committed a federal crime. View "United States v. Patton" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief based on petitioner's claim that he is intellectually disabled. In this case, the district court did not have the benefit of the Supreme Court's decision in Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), when it conducted its evidentiary hearing and issued its order. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to consider petitioner's claim in light of Moore. View "Jackson v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of two counts of abusive sexual contact. The court held that simply submitting a proposed instruction without objecting to the district court's refusal to give it did not preserve the issue for appeal and the issue was subject to plain error review; the district court did not plainly err in refusing defendant's proposed instruction regarding equal inferences in criminal cases where the instruction was another way of explaining reasonable doubt and the jury had been properly instructed on reasonable doubt; defendant failed to preserve his objection to a forensic examiner's testimony vouching for the truthfulness of the victim's statements and any prejudicial effect was cured by the district court's jury instructions; and, to the extent the forensic examiner's testimony was irrelevant, defendant failed to show plain error. View "United States v. Janis" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief for petitioner, who received the death sentence after being convicted of murder and burglary. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that petitioner was not entitled to relief on this Fifth Amendment self-incrimination claim under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA); the state courts did not unreasonably apply Strickland v. Washington in concluding that trial counsels' penalty phase efforts were not constitutionally deficient and the court need not address whether the state courts unreasonably concluded that there was no Strickland prejudice; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion to stay the habeas proceedings and file a second amended petition; the state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law applying the Ex Post Facto Clause by permitting the victim's mother to give impact evidence; the state court's decision to reject the claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel because Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994), did not apply was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law; the jury found three valid aggravating circumstances that clearly encompassed the facts and circumstances supporting its additional depravity-of-mind finding; and the court denied the application to file a second or successive petition. View "Rhines v. Young" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The court held that the district court did not err by refusing to give a theory of defense jury instruction where the proposed instruction misstated the law, there was a lack of evidence negating defendant's specific intent, and the district court instructed the jury, without objection, as to the knowledge and intent elements of all three offenses. The court rejected defendant's Brady claim and held that there was no abuse of discretion in denying a new trial because there was no reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different had the lab reports been produced; defendant's claims of prosecutorial misconduct failed because the district court did not abuse its discretion by sustaining objections and the evidence of defendant's guilt was overwhelming; the district court did not err by sentencing defendant as a career offender; and, even had the district court erred in sentencing defendant as a career offender, the district court would have imposed the same sentence based on the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Garrett" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed Defendant King's sentence and Defendant Raines' conviction and sentence for charges related to their involvement in the operation of a pill mill. The court rejected Raines' evidentiary challenges; the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving a willful blindness jury instruction; the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to provide Raines' good faith instruction; the evidence was sufficient for a jury to easily find that Raines was involved in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances without an effective prescription; the district court did not clearly err in making its drug quantity calculations; the district court did not err by applying an abuse of trust enhancement to Raines' sentence; and both defendants' sentences were substantively reasonable. View "United States v. King" on Justia Law