Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate petitioner's sentence. The district court ruled that petitioner failed to prove that the ACCA's residual clause affected his sentence because he still had three qualifying serious drug offenses. The court held that the government did not waive reliance on petitioner's 2007 conviction for delivery of cocaine, and in the section 2255 proceedings the government permissibly introduced Shepard documents to prove the qualifying nature of that 2007 conviction. Therefore, petitioner had three prior convictions that qualified as serious drug offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act and he was not eligible for relief under Johnson v. United States. View "Tribue v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The government may prove sex trafficking of a minor, 18 U.S.C. 1591, by establishing only that a defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the minor victim instead of proving that he knew or recklessly disregarded the victim's age. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for sex trafficking a minor and held that the 2015 amendment of section 1591 makes clear that the government may satisfy its burden by proving that the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to observe the minor victim. The court also held that defendants' challenges to the jury instructions, the denial of their motions to suppress evidence, the limitations on cross-examination of the victim, and their sentences all failed. View "United States v. Whyte" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint in a civil forfeiture action involving criminal proceeds from the faja retail business. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the government to dismiss its complaint without prejudice, because claimants have not established that they suffered clear legal prejudice by the government's voluntary dismissal. The court also held that claimants were not entitled to attorney's fees under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, because they did not substantially prevail in the action. View "United States v. Kurvas Secret By W" on Justia Law

by
While in prison pending his surrender to Colombia, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to block his extradition. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief, holding that, in accordance to the Department of State, both the United States and Colombia continue to recognize a previously nullified extradition treaty between the two countries as valid and in force. The court explained that, under the separation of powers established in and demanded by our Constitution, the Judicial Branch cannot second-guess that political judgment call or indulge whatever the court's own views on the matter may be. The court held that nothing in this case possibly requires the court to declare invalid Colombia's official acts, and thus the factual predicate for application of the act of state doctrine did not exist. View "Arias Leiva v. Warden" on Justia Law

by
An attorney's disregard of a court instruction to obtain the official consent of a foreign government to conduct video depositions on its soil does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel per se. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to vacate his sentence. In this case, counsel's decision to disregard the court instruction to obtain formal approval constituted a choice dictated by reasonable trial strategy. Furthermore, defendant failed to establish that he was prejudiced by the inability of the witnesses to testify. View "Khan v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants Smith and Delancy's convictions for conspiracy to commit alien smuggling, alien smuggling, and attempted illegal reentry. The court held that the district court did not err by admitting the videotaped deposition testimony of a smuggled alien in defendant's boat, where the government's multiple efforts to locate her were unavailing and constituted a good faith effort that was reasonable under the factual circumstances of this case. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying Smith's motion for a mistrial based on the prosecutor's comments about Smith's prior conviction during closing arguments, because they were made in direct response to Smith's argument. Even assuming arguendo that the statements were improper, the claim still failed because the statements did not affect Smith's substantial rights. Finally, the district court committed no cumulative error. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to petitioner, who was convicted of three murders and sentenced to death. The court held that the superior court reasonably determined that trial counsel were not ineffective for failing to investigate mitigating evidence and to present it during the penalty phase; the superior court's determination that the Georgia burden of proof for intellectual disability did not violate the due process clause was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law; and petitioner failed to establish his intellectual disability by clear and convincing evidence. View "Raulerson v. Warden" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that defendant waived his right to appeal his sentence in the plea agreement. In this case, while defendant did not get the sentence he wanted and that the government recommended, he understood and agreed up front that regardless of any recommendations, the sentence and the Sentencing Guidelines, if any, applicable to his case would be determined solely by the court, with assistance of probation. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, alleging that his lawyer provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of relief based on petitioner's mitigation claim. The court held that the district court erred by deciding Strickland prejudice de novo without finding that the state court's decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts and with no basis to say that the state court unreasonably applied Strickland v. Washington. Furthermore, the district court failed to presume that the state courts' findings of fact were correct, which the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act requires. Finally, the court affirmed the denial of relief based on counsel's failure to object when petitioner testified before the jury during the penalty phase in shackles. View "Whatley v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of sexually exploiting a minor through the production of child pornography. The court held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a five-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 4B1.5(b)(1), because he engaged in a pattern of activity involving prohibited sexual conduct. The court also held that defendant's 240 month sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors, ultimately determining that the nature of defendant's offense outweighed any age-related concerns. View "United States v. Fox" on Justia Law