Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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The Fourth Circuit held that the doctrine of fugitive tolling applies in this case, extending the period of time during which the district court was authorized to sanction defendant's violations. Defendant returned to the United States without permission, and in violation of his term of supervised release, by using an alias to avoid detection for several years. When defendant was finally apprehended and charged with violating the conditions of his supervised release, he argued that the government was too late because his five year supervised release term had expired. The court held that questions remained about the precise duration of that tolling, and whether the fugitive tolling doctrine or some other legal provision authorized the district court to impose sanctions in January of 2018. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's supervised release order and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, and attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. The court held that there was no fatal variance between the indictment and the evidence offered at trial; the district court did not commit reversible error by refusing to give a multiple conspiracy charge; the district court did not err in refusing to sever defendant's trial from his codefendants'; and the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal because the evidence was sufficient to convict him. Finally, the court held that defendant's claim that the government engaged in "outrageous conduct" and violated defendant's due process rights was without merit. View "United States v. Cannady" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that conditions of confinement on Virginia's death row violated the Eighth Amendment and enjoining reinstatement of those conditions. Virginia death row inmates spent between 23 and 24 hours a day alone, in a small cell with no access to congregate religious, educational, or social programming. Inmates were denied access to any form of congregate recreation, either indoor or outdoor, and were not allowed to eat meals outside of their cells. The court held that the challenged conditions on Virginia's death row deprived inmates of the basic human need for meaningful social interaction and positive environmental stimulation. Furthermore, the undisputed evidence established that deprivation posed a substantial risk of serious psychological and emotional harm and state defendants were deliberately indifferent to that risk. View "Porter v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision that petitioner was deportable for committing an aggravated felony within the meaning of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court held that petitioner's convictions for taking custodial indecent liberties with a child under Virginia Code 18.2-370.1(A) qualified categorically as an aggravated felony of sexual abuse of a minor under the INA. View "Thompson v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's drug and firearms convictions and his 120 month sentence. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting defendant's plea agreement with the United States after considering his extensive criminal history, the overly lenient advisory Guidelines range, defendant's potential for violence, and the nature of his offenses. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in overruling defendant's Batson challenge where the prosecutor gave three reasons for its peremptory strike of Juror No. 22, who was an African American woman: whether she was married, had children, and her age. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in calculating the advisory Guidelines range and by applying a two level sentencing enhancement for possession of a stolen firearm under USSG 2K2.1(b)(4)(A). View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the district court did not procedurally err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for recklessly creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to another person in the course of fleeing from a law enforcement officer under USSG 3C1.2. In this case, defendant ignored repeated commands from a police officer to stop running, continued to flee on foot while armed with a loaded weapon, and appeared to be holding or reaching toward his right jacket pocket, where a loaded firearm was later discovered. View "United States v. Dennings" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that the district court erred in substituting a previously unidentified conviction to sustain petitioner's career offender designation. Petitioner claimed ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to challenge his designation as a career offender. In this case, the district court found that one of the predicate offenses identified by the State did not qualify as a crime of violence and thus could not support a career offender designation, but nevertheless found no prejudice from counsel's error. The district concluded that the career offender designation could be supported by another conviction in petitioner's record, even though the State did not identify this conviction as a basis for the designation at sentencing. View "United States v. Winbush" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court granted a certificate of appealability on his claim that he has made a showing of actual innocence such that the district court erred in dismissing his petition as untimely. The court held that petitioner failed to meet the exacting standard for the procedural gateway claim of actual innocence. In this case, none of the new evidence identified by petitioner contradicted the evidence of his guilt presented at trial. View "Hayes v. Carver" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for filing three false tax returns and obstructing a grand jury proceeding. The court held that the district court properly instructed the jury on the nexus requirement. However, the jury's determinations pursuant to that instruction were based on the substantial evidence presented at trial. Therefore, because the jury was properly instructed and found defendant guilty based on ample and substantial evidence, the court upheld his conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions related to the course of his trial. View "United States v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

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After the district court dismissed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for being untimely filed, it granted a certificate of appealability as to whether the one-year limitations period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) for filing the section 2254 petition was tolled by petitioner's state court motion to reduce sentence under Rule 4-345 of the Maryland Rules. In light of Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545 (2011), the Fourth Circuit held that the limitations period was tolled during the pendency of the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion. Like a motion to reduce sentence under Kholi's Rhode Island Rule 35, the court explained that a Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence was not part of the direct review process and undoubtedly called for review of the sentence. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Green" on Justia Law