Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed a juvenile defendant's life sentence without parole where the juvenile was convicted of felony murder and other crimes. The panel held that the district court did not err in resentencing defendant by first calculating and using the sentencing guideline range of life imprisonment; under Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the district court was required to consider the hallmark features of youth before imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender; and the district court took into account evidence of defendant's rehabilitation as part of its inquiry into whether defendant was a member of a class of permanently incorrigible juvenile offenders. View "United States v. Briones, Jr." on Justia Law

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18 U.S.C. 2113(e) does not contain a separate requirement that the defendant intend the killing which results from his bank robbery. Congress mandated an enhanced punishment for an individual who kills a person in the course of committing a bank robbery in section 2113(e) and the enhancement applies even when the bank robber accidentally kills someone. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for bank robbery resulting in death, in violation of section 2113(e), holding that the means rea required was the mens rea necessary to commit the underlying bank robbery. View "United States v. McDuffy" on Justia Law

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18 U.S.C. 2113(e) does not contain a separate requirement that the defendant intend the killing which results from his bank robbery. Congress mandated an enhanced punishment for an individual who kills a person in the course of committing a bank robbery in section 2113(e) and the enhancement applies even when the bank robber accidentally kills someone. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for bank robbery resulting in death, in violation of section 2113(e), holding that the means rea required was the mens rea necessary to commit the underlying bank robbery. View "United States v. McDuffy" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence found on his person and in the car he was driving. The panel held that defendant failed to show that the officers' decision to pull him over and to impound his car would have occurred in the absence of an impermissible reason. However, the panel held, in light of United States v. Orozco, 858 F.3d 1204 (9th Cir. 2017), that the officers' search and seizure of items from defendant's car could not be justified under the inventory-search doctrine where officers explicitly admitted that they seized items from the car to search for evidence of criminal activity. In this case, the government did not offer any justification for the seizure of the property other than the inventory-search doctrine, and thus the district court erred in denying the motion to suppress. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Hostage Taking Act does not require proof of a nexus to international terrorism. The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant Mikhel and Kadamovas's convictions and death sentences for several federal crimes, including multiple counts of hostage taking resulting in death under the Hostage Taking Act. Defendants raised numerous issues on appeal. The panel held that the Act was a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Necessary and Proper Clause together with the Treaty Power, and rejected defendants' Tenth Amendment challenge; defendants' motion for recusal of the district judge was untimely and failed on the merits; defendants' Batson challenge failed because defendants did not meet their burden of demonstrating race was a substantial motivating factor; the district court did not err by empaneling an anonymous jury; defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a public trial was not violated; there was no error in the jury instruction; and the panel rejected defendants' remaining guilt phase claims. Furthermore, the panel rejected defendant's penalty phase claims and held that the district court either did not err or any error was harmless. View "United States v. Mikhel" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied petitioner's application for leave to file a second or successive habeas petition with the district court. The panel held that petitioner's Brady v. Maryland claim was subject to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's (AEDPA) second or successive gatekeeping requirements because the factual predicate supporting a Brady claim existed at the time of the first habeas petition. The panel applied AEDPA's second or successive bar to petitioner's Brady claim and held that he has failed to make the requisite prima facie showing of actual innocence. View "Brown v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied an application for permission to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition in federal district court based on a Brady v. Maryland claim. The panel held that petitioner failed to show that he exercised due diligence in failing to discover the evidence at issue before he filed his habeas petition. Therefore, the application was denied under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B)(i). The panel also held that petitioner failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty had the new evidence been known at trial pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B)(ii). View "Solorio, Jr. v. Muniz" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to import and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. The panel held that, despite the evidence of defendant's presence with two unknown men in a known drug-smuggling corridor close to the Mexican border near what appeared to be a camp for drug trafficking scouts, as well as the seizure of items that were suspicious in this context, there was insufficient evidence for a jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant entered into a conspiratorial agreement to import or distribute marijuana. In this case, there was no evidence as to what (if anything) was specifically agreed to, who agreed to it, or what any agreement was intended to accomplish. Furthermore, the panel has long held that drug courier profile evidence such as that admitted here was admissible only for limited purposes. View "United States v. Espinoza-Valdez" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for attempting to smuggle ammunition from the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 554(a), and the revocation of defendant's supervised release from a prior conviction. The panel held that the district court did not err in overruling defendant's objections at trial to the jury instructions and the prosecutor's closing argument, because section 554 did not require the government to prove that the defendant knew the nature of the "merchandise, article, or object" that the defendant was exporting contrary to law. View "United States v. Rivero" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's supervised release after he committed two violations of a condition that he possess and use only those computers and computer-related devices he had disclosed to his supervising officer. The panel held that the probation office did not unreasonably delay the initiation of a petition for revocation of supervised release in this matter as defendant caused the delay by obstructing the probation office's investigation of the conduct leading to the filing of the petition for revocation; the Fifth Amendment did not apply to law enforcement questions to defendant about his compliance with the terms and conditions of supervision; and defendant violated the computer "use" condition of supervised release when he availed himself of the functions of an undisclosed device. View "United States v. Misraje" on Justia Law