Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against the County and the City in state court, alleging violations of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. In 1972, plaintiff was convicted of 28 counts of felony murder for causing a deadly fire at a Tucson hotel. In 2013, after plaintiff presented newly discovered evidence that arson did not cause the hotel fire, he entered into a plea agreement where the original convictions were vacated and he pleaded no contest to the same counts, was resentenced to time served, and released from prison. After the City removed the case to federal court, the district court granted in part and denied in part the County's motion to dismiss. The Ninth Circuit exercised its discretion under 28 U.S.C. 1292(b) to deny the County's application for permission to appeal the denial of qualified immunity; held that section 1291's collateral order doctrine did not apply to the County's appeal and thus the panel did not have jurisdiction over it; and dismissed the County's appeal. The panel held that a plaintiff in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action may not recover incarceration-related damages for any period of incarceration supported by a valid, unchallenged conviction and sentence. Exercising its discretion under section 1292(b), the panel held that plaintiff's valid 2013 conviction and sentence were the sole legal causes of his incarceration, and thus he could not recover damages for wrongful incarceration. View "Taylor v. County of Pima" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied as unnecessary petitioner's application to file a second or successive habeas corpus petition. Petitioner argued that his petition was not second or successive, but rather a first petition challenging a new judgment that added credit for the time he served before sentencing. The panel held that Gonzalez v. Sherman, 873 F.3d 763, 769 (9th Cir. 2017), which held that, under California law, a state court's amended judgment awarding a defendant credit for time served constituted a new judgment, applied to Nevada law. Therefore, petitioner's habeas petition was the first petition challenging his amended judgment. View "Turner v. Baker" on Justia Law

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A defendant waives his rights to challenge his sentence and precludes plain error review only when there is evidence that he knew of his rights at the time and nonetheless relinquished them. The en banc court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence, reaffirming the distinction between waiver and forfeiture of sentencing challenges. The en banc court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed a juror who complained of health problems during deliberations. Although the en banc court held that defendant's failure to object to the Guidelines calculations at sentencing constituted forfeiture subject to plain error review, there was no plain error. In this case, regardless of whether the district court's loss calculation method was legally erroneous, defendant failed to meet his burden of showing that the alleged error affected his substantial rights. View "United States v. Depue" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the prior opinion and filed a new opinion affirming the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner's guilt-phase claims regarding his first degree murder convictions. The panel held that, although trial counsel was constitutionally deficient by failing to present a diminished capacity defense based on mental illness, petitioner did not suffer any prejudice. In this case, the evidence of petitioner's specific intent to rape and kill both victims was overwhelming when compared to the relatively weak diminished capacity evidence that counsel could have presented, but failed to present. The panel also held that trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to subpoena a specific witness nor was petitioner prejudiced. View "Hernandez v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a special condition of his anticipated release restricting his relationship with his family. Defendant and his son were convicted and sentenced for defrauding the government through their business venture. The condition stated that defendant was permitted to have contact with his son only for normal familial relations but was prohibited from any contact, discussion, or communication concerning financial or investment matters except matters limited to defendant's own support. The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and held that the condition was unconstitutionally vague and struck the offending words "only for normal familial relations" from the condition. The panel held that the phrase was susceptible to many different interpretations and the district court could have, instead, specifically said that defendant and his son were prohibited from participating in illegal activities together. View "United States v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Law enforcement officers may not extend a lawfully initiated vehicle stop because a passenger refuses to identify himself, absent reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed a criminal offense. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained in a traffic stop. The panel held that Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), partially abrogated United States v. Turvin, 517 F.3d 1097 (9th Cir. 2008), and that the district court committed legal error by approving the duration of the stop based on Turvin, rather than Rodriguez. In this case, the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to believe that defendant was out past his curfew or was under drinking age. Therefore, the extension of the traffic stop based on these concerns was an unlawful seizure. Furthermore, defendant's repeated refusal to identify himself did not constitute a failure to comply with an officer's lawful order under Arizona law. The evidence was only discovered because defendant was ordered out of the car as part of the unlawful extended seizure. View "United States v. Landeros" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for unlawful reentry into the United States after removal and remanded for resentencing. The Supreme Court has held that courts must consider both a crime's statutory elements and sentencing factors when determining whether an offense is punishable by a certain term of imprisonment. At issue was whether defendant's earlier offense was punishable under Washington by more than one year. The panel held that it can no longer follow its earlier precedents that eschewed consideration of mandatory sentencing factors. The panel held that Washington statutes prescribe a required sentencing range that binds the sentencing court. In this case, defendant's offense—as actually prosecuted and adjudicated—was punishable under Washington law by no more than six months in prison. Therefore, the district court erred by concluding that his offense was punishable by more than one year in prison. View "United States v. Valencia-Mendoza" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm, aggravated identity theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant raised a claim of duress, contending that she purchased the handgun with her identical twin sister's ID in violation of her probation because her ex-boyfriend threatened to harm her and her family. The panel joined the weight of authority in holding that expert testimony on Battered Woman Syndrome may be used by a defendant to support her duress defense and rehabilitate her credibility. Therefore, the panel held that the district court committed legal error in precluding defendant's expert witness from testifying and concluded that this decision was prejudicial to her defense. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding a video of defendant's entire jail interview. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for drug and firearms offenses. In this case, defendant was stopped while driving and subjected to a warrantless search of his person and car. A year later, a separate investigation linked defendant with a controlled substances distribution and the police conducted a warrant search of his home. The panel held that the search of defendant's person was constitutional based on the search incident to a lawful arrest exception to the warrant requirement. The panel reasoned that the justifications for the search incident to lawful arrest exception do not lose any of their force in the context of a search performed by an officer who has probable cause to arrest and shortly thereafter does arrest. So long as the search was incident to and preceding a lawful arrest—which is to say that probable cause to arrest existed and the search and arrest are roughly contemporaneous—the arresting officer's subjective crime of arrest need not have been the crime for which probable cause existed. The panel held that Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998), does not prevent a search incident to a lawful arrest from occurring before the arrest itself, even if the crime of arrest is different from the crime for which probable cause existed. The panel also held that the search of the defendant's vehicle was justified under the automobile exception and the warrant to search the house was valid. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying a sentencing enhancement for the use of body armor during the commission of the offense. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Although California Penal Code 211 robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F), section 211 robbery nevertheless qualifies as a generic theft offense under section 1101(a)(43)(G), and thus is an aggravated felony under 18 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for illegal reentry where defendants were each convicted under section 211 and deported to Mexico after their prison terms were completed. View "United States v. Martinez-Hernandez" on Justia Law