Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas corpus relief, holding that the Mississippi Supreme Court's decision was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established law. The court held that Grim v. Fisher, 816 F.3d 296 (5th Cir. 2016), barred petitioner from habeas relief. Grim applied Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 564 U.S. 647 (2011), to a case in which a crime laboratory supervisor -- rather than an analyst, as in the case here -- testified at trial, and held that such testimony did not violate clearly established law. View "Jenkins v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The court held that the magistrate judge should have held an evidentiary hearing to investigate petitioner's allegations of an actual conflict of interest, and failure to do so was an abuse of discretion under established precedents. In this case, petitioner presented evidence that his counsel advised one of his co-defendants to plead guilty, prior to his own plea agreement, and that his counsel did so in a manner that prejudiced petitioner's defense. View "United States v. Harrison" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for transporting aliens for commercial advantage or private financial gain, and remanded for a new trial. The court held that the government's introduction of videotaped depositions of two material witnesses at trial violated defendant's rights under the Confrontation Clause because the government failed to demonstrate the witnesses were unavailable. The court held that the government's efforts to secure the presence of the witnesses did not meet the good faith standard. Furthermore, the error was harmful because the government could not demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the videotaped depositions of the material witnesses did not contribute to defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Foster" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and drug charges. The court exercised its discretion in reviewing the district court's application of the sentencing guidelines and held that the district court sentenced defendant to 420 months in prison, which was 93 months higher than the top of the correct guidelines range. The court held that the district court's miscalculation of defendant's sentencing range constituted plain error. Therefore, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Douglas" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief based on the ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC). The court held that the district court correctly determined that the one-year limitation period began on August 7, 2012, and therefore petitioner's IAC claim was time-barred. Likewise, the court also held that petitioner's IAC claim was procedurally foreclosed because petitioner failed to show the cause of his default where the factual predicate of the IAC claim was reasonably available at the time of his first petitions. View "Ford v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 50 month sentence after he pleaded guilty of illegal reentry after removal. The court held that, although defendant was correct that the district court erred in scoring three prior convictions, he failed to demonstrate that the error affected his substantial rights. In this case, the district court's statements substantiated that there was no reasonable probability that defendant's sentence would have been different had the district court used the correct guideline range of 21 to 27 months instead of 24 to 30 months. View "United States v. Nino-Carreon" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction and dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A. Plaintiff argued that the composition of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The court held that plaintiff failed to allege a violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, and thus the district court properly dismissed the section 1983 complaint on the merits. The court reasoned that plaintiff's allegations did not reflect the complete lack of process that the court has held may violate the minimal due process protections that exist in the clemency context. View "Garcia v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
Reyes-Contreras pleaded guilty of illegal reentry. Because he had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Missouri, the district court applied a 16-level USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) sentencing enhancement for a crime of violence. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that Missouri's manslaughter statute was non-generic. Although the court found that the statute was divisible and could warrant an enhancement under the modified categorical approach, the documents of conviction did not indicate the subsection of conviction. On rehearing, en banc, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the application of the enhancement, overruling its own precedent. Defense counsel acknowledged that the crime was a killing by baseball bat; there was no need to dissect the details of the crime. The statute is divisible. Subdivision (1) is generic manslaughter and formed the basis of Reyes-Contreras’s conviction. It is a crime of violence on which the sentencing enhancement was properly based. Even if the statute were indivisible, Subdivision (2) has as an element the use of force under a proper understanding of Supreme Court precedent, so that the enhancement is legally correct for an independent reason. View "United States v. Reyes-Contreras" on Justia Law

by
Blackman was convicted of murder in 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment. In a successive Section 2255 application, she challenged her conviction under Brady v. Maryland, Napue v. Illinois, and Giglio v. United States. The claim was based on the inconsistency between a detectives trial testimony that a witness had positively identified Blackman in the lineup and the prosecutor’s note indicating hesitation. The district court dismissed the petition. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The petition did not fulfill the stringent requirements of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B). Even if Blackman could establish that she exercised due diligence in discovering the basis for her claims, the newly discovered evidence, taken together with the proof adduced at trial, does not show “by clear and convincing evidence” that, but for the prosecution’s misconduct, “no reasonable factfinder would have found her guilty” of murder. The district court was not authorized to grant a certificate of appealability on the merits of Blackman’s claims while also determining that her petition ultimately failed to meet the statutory prerequisites for a successive try at federal habeas relief. View "Blackman v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability to challenge the district court's denial of petitioner's federal habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner failed to show that jurists of reason could debate whether the district court erred in denying his petition for habeas relief on his claim for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The court also held that Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071 section 2(e)(1) offered a "broad definition of mitigating evidence" that was not limited by Article 37.071 section 2(f)(4)'s reference to "moral blameworthiness." Therefore, the state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established law. View "Hummel v. Davis" on Justia Law