Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that plaintiff was "actually innocent" of assault on a public servant in Texas court, he filed suit against the City and law enforcement officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Plaintiff alleged a Brady claim against the City and the district court granted summary judgment in his favor. The Fifth Circuit reversed and dismissed the action with prejudice, holding that plaintiff's guilty plea precludes him from asserting a Brady claim under section 1983. View "Alvarez v. City of Brownsville" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for conspiracy to commit money laundering. The Fifth Circuit remanded for further findings on the Brady and Giglio claim, holding that the district court clearly erred in concluding that the FBI Forms 302 (official interview memoranda) were not favorable. The court did not reach defendant's challenge to the forfeiture order, and otherwise rejected defendant's arguments. View "United States v. Colorado Cessa" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Fifth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on two issues: (1) a Mills claim that the omission of a jury instruction—required under Texas law—that jurors need not agree on what particular evidence they found mitigating created a substantial risk that the jurors may have mistakenly believed mitigating evidence needed to be accepted unanimously and (2) that petitioner's trial counsel's failure to object to the missing instruction constituted ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v. Washington. In regard to the Mills claim, the court held that, given the record, there did not exist a reasonable likelihood or substantial probability that reasonable jurors may have thought they were precluded from considering any mitigating evidence unless all 12 jurors agreed on the existence of a particular such circumstances. Therefore, the state courts did not unreasonably apply Mills. Assuming arguendo that failing to object to the absent jury instruction was deficient performance, defendant failed to show prejudice. Accordingly, the Texas state courts' application of Strickland to defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims was not unreasonable. The court affirmed the denial of habeas relief. View "Young v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit had previously issued a nondispositive opinion denying certificates of appealability (COAs) with respect to petitioner's Miranda and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. After reviewing supplemental briefs submitted by both parties, the court held that Texas's corrective process did not effectively protect petitioner's rights under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). In this case, new evidence -- a full-scale IQ score of 63 -- rendered his Atkins claims unexhausted. Accordingly, the court held that the district court based its denial of funding to obtain testing on an erroneous view of the law and abused its discretion. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sorto v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's term of supervised release and sentence of 24 months in prison. The court held that, even if the district court was required to consider the treatment exception under 18 U.S.C. 3583(d), the record did not indicate that it failed to do so. The court also held that defendant had ample opportunity to address the district court after revocation, and he failed to present any case law mandating an opportunity for allocution prior to revocation. View "United States v. Brooker" on Justia Law

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A court does not depart under USSG 4A1.3 when calculating a defendant's applicable guideline range, but instead departs from the applicable guideline range under section 4A1.3 after having calculated that range. After defendant's 262 month sentence for trafficking in crack cocaine was reduced to 235 months, he argued that he should have received a greater reduction to account for the downward departure based on overrepresented criminal history that the district court awarded him at his original sentencing. The Fifth Circuit rejected defendant's contention that a district court's inability to impose the previously-applied departure violated United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005); no ex post facto violation occurred here, as the amendment to the USSG 1B1.10 commentary did not have the effect of retroactively increasing the punishment for an offense; and the court rejected the argument that Congress's instructions that the Sentencing Commission determine whether and when a sentencing reduction should apply violated the separation of powers. Furthermore, defendant failed to establish that the district court's inability to reapply the departure violated res judicata or collateral estoppel, and depriving defendant of the departure would not undermine the sentencing goal of proportionality between himself and his codefendants. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Leatch" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(4). The court held that the facts underlying defendant's claim -- that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to file defendant's appeal -- could have been discovered through the exercise of diligence at least one year before defendant filed for habeas relief. In this case, defendant's characterizations of the facts before the district court did not justify a determination that his habeas petition was timely under section 2255(f)(4). View "United States v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Defendant conditionally pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress, holding that the totality of the circumstances surrounding the turn-signal violation provided the requisite reasonable suspicion to stop defendant's vehicle, and the collective knowledge doctrine provided the grounds for imputation of that information to another officer. The court also held that Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017), foreclosed defendant's argument that remand of his career offender sentence was required under the reasoning of United States v. Johnson, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). However, the court held that defendant's prior Texas conviction for delivery of a controlled substance cannot serve as a predicate offense for purposes of USSG 4B1.1's enhancement in light of United States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). Because such error affected defendant's substantial rights, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Zuniga" on Justia Law