Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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Where, as here, the record shows that the medically necessary treatment for a prisoner's gender dysphoria is gender confirmation surgery (GCS), and responsible prison officials deny such treatment with full awareness of the prisoner's suffering, those officials violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of a permanent injunction after the district court concluded that gender confirmation surgery is medically necessary for plaintiff, a male-to-female transgender prisoner in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction, and ordered the State to provide the surgery. The panel held that the record, as construed by the district court, established that plaintiff has a serious medical need, that the appropriate medical treatment is GCS, and that prison authorities have not provided that treatment despite full knowledge of plaintiff's ongoing and extreme suffering and medical needs. In so holding, the panel rejected the State's portrait of a reasoned disagreement between qualified medical professionals. The panel noted that its analysis was individual to plaintiff and was based on the record. The panel also noted that it applied the dictates of the Eighth Amendment in an area of increased social awareness: transgender health care, and that the Eighth Amendment inquiry takes into account the medical community's developing understanding of what treatments are safe and medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria. Finally, the panel largely rejected the State's remaining contentions, but vacated the injunction to the extent it applied to the named defendants in their individual capacities. View "Edmo v. Corizon, Inc." on Justia Law

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A district court does not need to decide on a defendant's eligibility for an acceptance-of-responsibility reduction in his Guidelines level before listening to the defendant's allocution. The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for possession of a firearm as a felon and reversed for resentencing. The panel held that the district court erred in this case by concluding that it could not listen to defendant's allocution before determining whether a reduction of acceptance of responsibility was warranted, and the error was plain, affecting defendant's substantial rights and seriously affecting the fairness of the proceedings. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a habeas corpus petition challenging petitioner's California conviction and sentence for the first-degree murder and sexual assault of an eight-year-old girl. The panel held that the state court reasonably rejected petitioner's Napue claim challenging the serology evidence where, even assuming that there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny the claim as to the first two Napue requirements, the panel could not say that it would be unreasonable to conclude that the testimony did not satisfy the materiality element. The panel noted that, even setting aside the serology testimony, the case against petitioner was devastating and largely unchallenged. The panel also held that, even assuming counsel's performance was deficient, it could not say that the state court would have erred in finding no reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. View "Panah v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed their convictions for conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods, and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their scheme to sell counterfeit 5-hour Energy liquid dietary supplements. The Ninth Circuit held that it need not resolve the issue of whether prior civil deposition testimony of a witness, who has subsequently invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, may be introduced against defendants in a criminal trial without violating their Confrontation Clause right to confront the witnesses against them. Rather, the panel held that even if the district court erred by concluding that the witnesses were unavailable, the error was harmless because the outcome of the trial would not have changed had the depositions been excluded. View "United States v. Shayota" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence for attempted illegal reentry after deportation. The district court applied a ten-level enhancement to defendant's base offense level under USSG 2L1.2(b)(3)(A), which applies to a defendant charged under 8 U.S.C. 1326 who was previously ordered deported or removed and who subsequently committed a felony offense for which the sentence imposed was five years or more. The panel held that the single sentence rule in USSG 4A1.2(a)(2) applies to the enhancements in USSG 2L1.2(b)(2) and (b)(3). In this case, the district court aggregated defendant's two 3.5-year sentences to produce a seven-year sentence for purposes of applying the enhancement, relying on section 4A1.2(a)(2). Accordingly, the panel rejected defendant's argument that the district court wrongly applied the single sentence rule in calculating his sentence. View "United States v. Cuevas-Lopez" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for second degree murder and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the murder conviction and held that the district did not plainly err in failing to instruct the jury on absence of heat of passion as an element of second-degree murder. The panel also held that, because second degree murder can be committed recklessly, rather than intentionally, it does not categorically constitute a crime of violence under the elements clause. Likewise, second degree murder cannot constitute a crime of violence under the unconstitutionally vague residual clause. Therefore, the panel reversed defendant's conviction for discharging a firearm. Finally, the panel held that the district court plainly erred by imposing mandatory restitution under 18 U.S.C. 3663A, because second degree murder is not categorically a crime of violence. View "United States v. Begay" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from warrantless searches of his cell phone by a Customs and Border Patrol official. Applying United States v. Cotterman, 709 F.3d 952 (9th Cir. 2013) (en banc), the panel held that manual cell phone searches may be conducted by border officials without reasonable suspicion but that forensic cell phone searches require reasonable suspicion. The panel clarified Cotterman by holding that "reasonable suspicion" in this context means that officials must reasonably suspect that the cell phone contains digital contraband. Furthermore, cell phone searches at the border, whether manual or forensic, must be limited in scope to a search for digital contraband. In this case, the panel held that the officials violated the Fourth Amendment when their warrantless searches exceeded the permissible scope of a border search. Therefore, most of the evidence from the searches of defendant's cell phone should have been suppressed. Finally, the panel held that defendant's Brady claims were unpersuasive. Because the panel vacated defendant's conviction, the panel did not reach his claim of prosecutorial misconduct. View "United States v. Cano" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The panel held that defendant's prior conviction for delivery of methamphetamine in violation of Oregon law does not qualify as a "controlled substance offense" under USSG 2K2.1(a)(4)(A) and 4B1.2(b). The panel rejected defendant's argument that the Oregon statue sweeps more broadly than the federal controlled substance offense because it criminalizes soliciting the delivery of methamphetamine. Therefore, the district court should have applied a base level offense of 20 under section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Crum" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's successive habeas corpus petition challenging the Idaho Supreme Court's 2008 decision that his execution was not barred under an Idaho law prohibiting the execution of intellectually disabled offenders. Petitioner sought relief under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), which held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of intellectually disabled persons. The panel held that the record did not establish that the state court's adjudication of petitioner's Atkins claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Therefore, the district court properly denied habeas relief because section 2254(d) was not satisfied. Finally, the panel noted that its decision did not preclude the Idaho courts from reconsidering these questions in light of Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. 701 (2014); Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S. Ct. 2269 (2015); and Moore v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 1039 (2017), which were all decided after the state court's decision View "Pizzuto v. Blades" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's determination, in a precedential decision, that even though petitioner was a lawful permanent resident, she was inadmissible under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(13)(C)(v) and 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), because she had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. In this case, the crime was Arizona solicitation to possess marijuana for sale. The BIA rejected petitioner's contention that, by referencing "attempt or conspiracy," section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) excludes crimes of solicitation even if they otherwise constitute crimes involving moral turpitude. Applying Chevron deference, the panel affirmed the BIA's determination that even though petitioner was a legal permanent resident, she was removable because she was inadmissible to the United States when she presented herself at the border. Furthermore, a conviction in Arizona for solicitation to possess at least four pounds of marijuana for sale constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude for purposes of section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), and thus petitioner was inadmissible. The panel rejected petitioner's contention that, by referencing only "attempt or conspiracy," section 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) excluded crimes of solicitation, and the panel saw no reason to deviate from Barragan-Lopez v. Mukasey, 508 F.3d 899 (9th Cir. 2007). View "Gonzalez Romo v. Barr" on Justia Law