Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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In 2006, Williams pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had prior convictions under Ohio law: attempted felonious assault, domestic violence, and assault on a peace officer, which subjected him to a mandatory-minimum sentence of 180 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) (ACCA). Williams twice, unsuccessfully filed 28 U.S.C. 2255 petitions to vacate his sentence. In 2015, (Johnson) the Supreme Court found the ACCA's residual clause, section 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), unconstitutional and subsequently held that Johnson had announced a new substantive rule of constitutional law that courts must apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. Williams filed a third 2255 motion, arguing that his prior convictions no longer counted as ACCA predicate offenses. The Sixth Circuit authorized the district court to consider whether Williams’ felonious assault conviction still qualifies as an ACCA violent felony, noting its 2012 holding (Anderson), that committing felonious assault in Ohio necessarily requires the use of physical force and is a predicate offense under the ACCA elements clause. The district court then held, and the Sixth Circuit agreed, that Anderson remains controlling precedent. Section 2255 motions based on Johnson are appropriate where the sentencing court may have relied on the residual clause. When binding precedent establishes that a violent felony used to enhance a sentence under the ACCA qualifies as a predicate offense under a separate ACCA provision, like the elements clause, the Johnson holding is not implicated. The courts found no reason to overrule Anderson. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

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Harper shot his brother and pled guilty in state court to reckless aggravated assault, Tenn. Code 39-13- 102(a)(1)(B). Three years later, Harper was caught selling drugs while possessing a loaded pistol. He pled guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g). The court calculated Harper’s Guidelines range to be 46-57 months’ imprisonment. The government argued that Harper’s range should be 84-105 months because Harper’s prior Tennessee conviction was for a felony “crime of violence,” U.S.S.G. 2K2.1(a)(4)(A), 4B1.2(a). The government cited the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision, Voisine v. United States. The court refused to increase the sentencing range, sentencing Harper to 46 months. The Sixth Circuit vacated, acknowledging that, post-Voisine, offenses that require only recklessness can be crimes of violence under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a) and that, under its precedent, violation of Tenn. Code 39-13-102(a)(1)(B) is a crime of violence for purposes of 4B1.2(a). The court then explained the error in its own precedent: Voisine dealt with only “the use . . . of physical force” while section 4B1.2 requires “requires not merely a volitional application of force, but a volitional application “against the person of another.” An actor who is only reckless as to whether his force injures another does not commit a “crime of violence” as defined by 4B1.2; “a desire to simplify our own application of the law is hardly good enough reason to double a man’s Guidelines range.” View "United States v. Harper" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). At the time of sentencing, Defendant had a pending incest charge in Tennessee relating to inappropriate sexual contact with his minor half-sister. After his federal sentencing, Defendant was convicted on the incest charge. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction for a Miranda violation and remanded. While Defendant’s new state case was pending, the Probation Office sought modifications to Defendant’s special conditions of supervised release: that Defendant have no contact with his sex offense victim(s) and submit to a psychosexual assessment at his own expense. Defendant pleaded guilty in state court to the reduced charge of aggravated assault. The federal court held a hearing and considered multiple reports relating to his state conviction that described numerous incidents of inappropriate sexual conduct between Defendant and his half-sister, only some of which formed the basis for his state court convictions. Defendant argued that a psychosexual evaluation was intrusive, unrelated to his federal offense, and not the “least restrictive means” to achieve the sentencing purposes of 18 U.S.C. 3553(a). The Sixth Circuit affirmed imposition of the conditions, agreeing that Defendant’s “history and characteristics” justified a psychosexual evaluation. The government conceded that it would not conduct a penile plethysmography test without seeking an additional order. View "United States v. Childress" on Justia Law

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Perreault was alone with his four-month-old daughter when he called 911 to report that Jenna had been injured. Police and paramedics arrived and found that Jenna had suffered a blunt-force trauma to the head. She died from her injuries. Perreault was indicted for first-degree felony murder and felony child abuse. He claimed that he had dropped Jenna, had fallen on top of her, and that she may have hit her head on an object as they fell. The state produced the testimony of the emergency room doctor that Jenna’s injuries could have been caused only by a narrow range of high-impact events, such as a high-speed car accident, a fall from several stories, or “a baseball bat to the head.” Convicted, Perreault was sentenced to life in prison. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed. He filed an unsuccessful state post-conviction petition, arguing ineffective assistance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a denial of federal habeas relief. The state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established Supreme Court precedent in rejecting claims that Perreault’s statement during his interrogation, “let’s call the lawyer then ‘cause I gave what I could,” constituted an unambiguous invocation of the right to counsel that required the police to stop questioning him and that Perreault’s trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to challenge the state expert’s testimony about the cause of Jenna’s injuries. View "Perreault v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Narcotics investigator Williams received information from a confidential source that White was selling marijuana from a Covington, Tennessee location. Williams enlisted the confidential source to execute a “controlled buy” from White. After reviewing the recorded audio-video footage of the transaction, which occurred in the driveway, and conducting additional investigation, Williams prepared an affidavit and obtaining a search warrant for the address, stating: A sudden and forceful entry is clearly necessary ... due to ... White’s extensive criminal history … Albert is also known to have dogs believed to [be] pit bulls. The ensuing search uncovered over a pound of marijuana, a firearm, ammunition, and $32,000 in cash, some of which was traced to the controlled buy. The district court agreed with White that the affidavit failed to establish probable cause, but denied a motion to suppress, noting defendant’s failure to object to the magistrate’s good-faith ruling. Convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm and of ammunition, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), White was sentenced to 33 months in prison, concurrent with an on-going state sentence for his probation violation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court erred in denying the motion to suppress and committed plain error in failing to specify the “start date” for his federal sentence or adjusting it under USSG. 5G1.3(b). View "United States v. White" on Justia Law

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Rucker finished an approximately 15-year term of imprisonment and began a five-year term of supervised release. Rucker violated the terms of his supervised release on four occasions when he tested positive for methamphetamine, which required the court to revoke Rucker’s supervised release and to sentence him to a term of imprisonment not to exceed five years, 18 U.S.C. 3583. Before determining the length of Rucker’s new term of imprisonment, the district court permitted him to enter an inpatient addiction treatment program. Presumably if Rucker had successfully completed the program the court would have imposed a short sentence. About a month after Rucker entered the program, he was ejected. The district court held a revocation hearing. Rucker’s Guidelines range was 21-27 months’ imprisonment. The court imposed a sentence of 24 months, stating that Rucker could qualify for the Bureau of Prisons’ residential drug-abuse program only if his sentence was at least 22 months in length. The Sixth Circuit vacated. A sentence is substantively unreasonable if the district court bases it on an impermissible factor. The Supreme Court has held that “[s]ection 3582(a) precludes sentencing courts from imposing or lengthening a prison term to promote an offender’s rehabilitation.” View "United States v. Rucker" on Justia Law

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Navarre, a confidential informant for the Toledo Vice Narcotics Unit (TPD), was found unresponsive and bleeding from the head on December 1, 1993. A bloody, 110-pound boulder was found near her body. Navarre died days later. TPD misclassified the offense as a felonious assault and destroyed the relevant evidence once the statute of limitation for felonious assault expired. The case remained unsolved until 2005, when Wilson’s wife, told TPD of Wilson’s possible involvement in Navarre’s murder. Mrs. Wilson testified against Wilson, but owing to Wilson’s assertion of spousal privilege, her testimony was limited to acts and communications by Wilson in the presence of a third party. Mrs. Wilson’s son also testified that on the night of the murder, Wilson made comments that “snitch bitches die,” and “he had to kill the snitch bitch,” and finally, that he“dropped a brick on her head.” Wilson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. The appeals court affirmed, finding that the physical evidence, including the bloody boulder, was not “materially exculpatory.” The trial court rejected, as untimely, Wilson’s “motion to vacate” in which he argued that the state failed to adhere to discovery obligations, depriving him of a fair trial. The Ohio Court of Appeals denied his application to reopen his appeal, in which he claimed ineffective assistance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition. View "Wilson v. Sheldon" on Justia Law

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Born in Pakistan, Haroon came to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa in 2002. Six months later, Haroon returned to Pakistan, married Bano, and the couple had a son. One week after the birth, they divorced. The next day, Haroon returned to the U.S. on another six-month visa. Within two months, Haroon married McVey, an American citizen. They filed a relative petition which permitted Haroon to apply for permanent residence. After a two-year probationary period, Haroon applied to have the conditions on his permanent residence removed. While that application was pending, Haroon and McVey divorced. Haroon became an American citizen. At each stage of this process, Haroon lied. The forms (G-325, I- 485, I-751, and N-400) asked whether Haroon had any children or former wives. On each form and in interviews, Haroon denied marrying Bano and denied the existence of children, even after returning to Bano in Pakistan during the probationary period and after Bano gave birth to another son nine months later. One month after becoming a citizen, Haroon returned to Pakistan, where he remarried Bano. He flew back to the U.S and filed relative petitions for Bano, two sons, and seven other family members. The government charged Haroon with “knowingly procur[ing]” his citizenship “contrary to law,” 18 U.S.C. 1425(a). The Sixth CIrcuit affirmed his conviction, sentence of two years’ probation, and revocation of his citizenship. View "United States v. Haroon" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Campbell of four counts of aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of attempted kidnapping, and one count each of kidnapping, felonious assault, escape, and having a weapon under a disability. The court adopted the jury's recommendation and sentenced him to death. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed Campbell’s convictions but remanded for resentencing due to a procedural error. On remand, the court resentenced Campbell to death. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed. In 2005, Campbell filed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition, alleging 12 grounds for relief. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the petition. In 2015, Campbell filed a second section 2254 petition, challenging Ohio’s lethal injection protocol. The magistrate ordered and the district court affirmed its transfer to the Sixth Circuit for initial review as a “successive” habeas petition. The Sixth Circuit denied the motion. Under Supreme Court precedent, an Eighth Amendment habeas corpus challenge to the death penalty cannot succeed unless it can identify a constitutional means of execution. The court rejected arguments based on Ohio’s changed execution protocol and on Campbell’s physical and mental health. The court noted that Campbell’s alternative, 42 U.S.C. 1983, empowers a court to enjoin the"deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution." A hearing on Campbell’s section 1983 motion is scheduled. View "In re: Campbell" on Justia Law

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Adams, 71, has been addicted to opiates for most of his life and has an extensive criminal history. In 2011, Adams pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, 21 U.S.C. 846 and 841(a)(1). After serving his custodial sentence, Adams began supervised release in July 2015. Starting in October 2015, Adams repeatedly tested positive for opiates.The Probation Office placed Adams in multiple drug-treatment programs, without success. After Adams tested positive for opiates three times between October 24 and November 15, 2016, the Probation Office filed another violation report. Following Adams’s failure of another drug test on November 30, it filed an amended report. At his hearing, Adams admitted that he unlawfully used controlled substances. The Guidelines range for the violation was incarceration of 21 to 27 months. After extensive discussion of Adams’s substance-abuse and the failure of treatment programs, the district court revoked Adams’s supervised release and sentenced him to 18 months of incarceration with no period of supervision to follow. The Sixth Circuit vacated the sentence. The court violated Adams’s due-process right when it based his sentence on unreliable information about rehabilitation and violated Supreme Court precedent, Tapia v. United States (2011), when it considered rehabilitation as a factor when calculating the length of incarceration. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law