Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of armed robbery with a firearm. Petitioner alleged that his trial lawyer rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to testimony that supposedly violated the Confrontation Clause. Assuming, without deciding, that counsel's performance was deficient, the court held that counsel's ineffective assistance did not prejudice defendant in light of the ample evidence linking defendant to the offense. Therefore, the state court's application of Strickland v. Washington was not contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court. View "Coleman v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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On appeal, Defendants Staggers and Session argued that they should be resentenced because their convictions for their involvement in a drug conspiracy were not final when the First Step Act became effective. The Fifth Circuit held that the relevant provisions of the First Step Act do not apply to defendants who were sentenced before the Act's effective date. The court also held that Defendants Staggers and Morrison are not entitled to a new trial on their 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) convictions for possessing firearms as convicted felons. The court further held that Morrison's argument regarding his motion to suppress is the only single-defendant issue having any merit. Because a credibility determination was necessary, the court vacated the district court's decision to deny Morrison's motion to suppress and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Staggers" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's decision finding petitioner removable under Section 237(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and denying petitioner's application for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Fifth Circuit held that petitioner failed to show a realistic probability that his conviction for possession of cocaine under the Texas statute criminalizes a broader range of conduct than the federal generic definition for cocaine. The court also held that petitioner failed to demonstrate error in the BIA's denial of his applications for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the CAT. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review of the final order of removal and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the petition for review of his eligibility for relief and protection. View "Alexis v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for leave to file a late notice of appeal and dismissed his original appeal. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion because defendant failed to demonstrate either excusable neglect or good cause for untimely filing his notice of appeal. In this case, the district court, immediately after imposing defendant's sentence, orally advised him of his right to appeal and of his right to counsel on appeal; expressed confidence that his present counsel would advise him of his appeal rights; and signed and gave to defendant a written notice of his appeal rights. View "United States v. Ramos Juarez" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. The court held that the officer who pulled defendant over had reasonable suspicion to extend the stop for a canine sniff where the government offered several specific facts in support of reasonable suspicion. In this case, among other things, defendant was pulled over in a well known drug-trafficking corridor, she drove a truck registered in someone else's name, she took unusual measures to protect the truck, she offered inconsistent and implausible stories about the purpose of her travel, and she had a conviction for possession of meth. The court also held that defendant was not entitled to Miranda safeguards during the routine traffic stop. View "United States v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions for two counts of carjacking where a reasonable jury could infer that defendant had the intent to kill if necessary at the moment that he took the vehicle. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions. Furthermore, because there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict defendant on both underlying carjacking counts, defendant's convictions under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) stand. The court also affirmed the district court's imposition of special conditions of supervised release, because the district court's oral adoption of the conditions in the presentencing report satisfied the district court's pronouncement obligations to the extent it was required to do so. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The court held that the district court did not err by applying two-level enhancements to defendant's offense level under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice and USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a firearm during the commission of the offense. The court also held that the district court did not err by adding three criminal history points for defendant's prior drug offense, rejecting his claims under USSG 4A1.2(k)(1) and the rule of lenity. View "United States v. Guidry" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of illegal reentry after deportation. Both parties agree that the merit's of defendant's appeal are foreclosed by the Supreme Court's decision in Quarles v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 1872 (2019). At issue is whether defendant's release from custody mooted his challenge to the presentencing report's calculation of his sentencing guidelines. The court applied United States v. Lares-Meraz, 452 F.3d 352 (5th Cir. 2006), and held that defendant's appeal of the eight-level sentence enhancement under USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(C) is not moot because he remains subject to a term of supervised release. View "United States v. Calzada Vega" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence stemming from a methamphetamine distribution and money laundering conspiracy. The court held that the district court plainly erred in limiting an inmate's testimony; the district court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the prosecutor to ask a few pointed questions about defendant's arrest for possessing marijuana in California when he had essentially testified that he believed his dealings in California were entirely legal; any error in allowing the testimony did not affect his substantial rights and was harmless; the district court did not plainly err by failing to immediately issue a limiting instruction about defendant's arrest during his cross-examination; the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering a defendant to remain shackled during trial where nothing suggested the shackles were visible to the jury and particularized needs justified the shackling; defendant failed to show that the district court plainly erred in calculating his Guidelines range; and defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Maes" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for eleven federal tax offenses. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a conspiracy to commit tax fraud by filing false tax returns. The court held even if there was error in admitting summary testimony and charts, the error was harmless; the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction of every count; and there are no cumulative errors requiring reversal. View "United States v. Nicholson" on Justia Law