Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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In 2017, Michael Dalton was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Dalton challenged his conviction on several evidentiary grounds; the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with only one: that the district court should have excluded the evidence the government obtained during the second search of Dalton’s residence that occurred in this case, which the Court concluded was unlawful. The police conducted the second search of Dalton’s residence pursuant to a warrant that permitted the officers to search for firearms and firearm paraphernalia based on: (1) the officers’ discovery of an AK-47 in Dalton’s car; (2) their knowledge that Dalton could not lawfully possess firearms as a previously convicted felon; and (3) their knowledge from training and experience that, frequently, persons who have firearms in their vehicles also have firearms in their homes. However, after the officers obtained the search warrant but before they executed it, the officers discovered that someone other than Dalton had been driving Dalton’s vehicle with the AK-47 in it, which, when combined with the other facts the officers knew, made it materially less likely that firearms and firearm paraphernalia would be found in Dalton’s residence. Nonetheless, the officers conducted the search. The Tenth Circuit concluded the second search was not supported by probable cause. However, it determined the inclusion of the evidence discovered in the second search at Dalton’s trial was harmless error. Therefore, the Court affirmed Dalton’s conviction. View "United States v. Dalton" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma charged Raymond Johnson with one count of first-degree arson and two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his former girlfriend, Brooke Whitaker, and the couple’s seven-month-old daughter. The charges stemmed from Johnson’s brutal attack on Whitaker with a hammer, after which he doused her with gasoline and set her house on fire, killing both victims. The jury convicted Johnson on all three counts. The Oklahoma jury subsequently concluded that the mitigating evidence did not outweigh four aggravating circumstances surrounding the murders. The jury sentenced Johnson to death. Johnson petitioned for habeas relief when state courts denied relief, allegeing ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court denied relief, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal granted a certificate of appealability on four issues: (1) whether Johnson’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the exclusion of certain mitigating evidence; (2) whether his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and develop certain mitigating evidence and present additional witnesses, and whether his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the issues on direct appeal; (3) whether Johnson’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise claims of prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) cumulative error. The Tenth Circuit considered Johnson's habeas petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death-Penalty Act, but only if the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals unreasonably applied federal law in denying his claims. The Tenth Circuit concluded Johnson could not meet that burden, and therefore denied the district court’s denial of Johnson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. View "Johnson v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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Kyle Lindsey and Zayne Mann were seriously injured when Lindsey lost control of his utility vehicle on a gravel road after a brief police pursuit. They claimed the accident was caused by an overzealous officer who should not have initiated a chase over a minor traffic infraction, alleging violations of both their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by Officer Brandon Hyler, the City of Webbers Falls, and several other municipal officials, based on Officer Hyler’s conduct during the pursuit as well as his previous training. Lindsey and Mann also sought relief under Oklahoma law. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all federal claims and concluded that Officer Hyler was entitled to qualified immunity. Because the record could not credibly sustain plaintiffs’ allegations, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court appropriately dismissed their claims. View "Lindsey v. Hyler" on Justia Law

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Darren Gonzales owned and operated Concrete Specialists, Inc. in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As a side business, he sold cocaine and methamphetamine. Gonzales used his personal and business bank accounts to launder the proceeds of his drug sales. After extensive investigations by state and federal law enforcement, a federal grand jury charged Gonzales with committing a multitude of drug and financial crimes. He eventually agreed to plead guilty to ten of the fifty-four counts set out in the indictment, specifically including seven counts of concealment money laundering. On appeal, Gonzales argued for the first time that the guilty pleas underlying two of his money laundering convictions, Counts 50 and 52, were not supported by a sufficient factual basis. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not err in finding that Gonzales’s guilty pleas to Counts 50 and 52 were supported by a sufficient factual basis. The conduct Gonzales admitted as part of his plea agreement and at the plea colloquy established the existence of every element of a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) as to both relevant counts. View "United States v. Gonzales" on Justia Law

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Rande Isabella was convicted of persuading and attempting to persuade S.F., a 14-year-old girl, to “engage . . . in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense” (Count 1), and of attempting to persuade S.F. to produce child pornography (Count 2). On appeal, he argued: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the district court made six improper evidentiary rulings; and (3) his convictions and sentences under 18 U.S.C. sections 2422(b) and 2251(a) and (e) violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Isabella's convictions. View "United States v. Isabella" on Justia Law

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Defendant Dustin Ash pled guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) identified a 2012 Kansas conviction for reckless aggravated battery as a “crime of violence” under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a). Concluding that Ash had one such prior conviction, the PSR set his base offense level at 20 pursuant to section 2K2.1(a)(4)(A). After making several adjustments, the PSR indicated Ash’s total offense level was 23. Paired with a criminal history category of V, the PSR determined his Guidelines range was 84 to 105 months’ imprisonment. In a cross-appeal, the parties challenged two district court rulings that considered whether certain offenses were crimes of violence under U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a). The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined : (1) the U.S. Supreme Court recently determined that robbery qualified as a crime of violence if the offense required the perpetrator to overcome victim resistance; and (2) offenses with a mens rea of recklessness cannot qualify as crimes of violence. The Court thus held that Dustin Ash’s Missouri conviction for second-degree robbery was a crime of violence, and his Kansas conviction for reckless aggravated battery was also a crime of violence. Because Ash had two prior convictions for crimes of violence under the Guidelines, the district court miscalculated his advisory Guidelines range. The Tenth Circuit then remanded this case and instructed the district court to vacate Ash’s sentence and resentence him consistent with its opinion. View "United States v. Ash" on Justia Law

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In 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Delano Medina. He appeared for the first time in federal court 27 months later on January 11, 2017. During that time, Medina was transferred between various state authorities in three different states on at least 10 different sets of charges and was tried in two different state courts. He moved to dismiss the federal indictment, arguing that the delay violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. He contended that the pretrial delay impaired his defense because his cell phone containing alibi evidence was lost before he was brought to federal court. He also argued the delay prevented him from invoking his rights under the Speedy Trial Act at an earlier date. The district court denied the motion because Medina had not adequately shown he suffered prejudice from the delay. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Medina" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a search, which took place after the police spoke with defendant Desmond Gaines. After a brief exchange, Gaines fled but was soon captured. The police then found cocaine, marijuana, PCP, drug paraphernalia, over $640, and a handgun. Gaines unsuccessfully moved to suppress this evidence, and he appealed denial of his suppression motion. Presented for the Tenth Circuit's review were issues of whether: (1) Gaines was seized by police; and (2) were his Fourth Amendment rights violated. After careful consideration of the facts presented at trial, the Tenth Circuit determined: (1) no, Gaines was not seized; and (2) the development of probable cause or the subsequent discovery of the arrest warrant did not attenuate the connection between the seizure and the drug/money evidence. The Court vacated the denial of Gaines’s motion to suppress. View "United States v. Gaines" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ian Alexander Bowline was convicted by a jury on a number of charges involving unlawful prescriptions for oxycodone. He appealed his conviction, raising only one issue: whether the district court properly denied his untimely pretrial motion to dismiss his indictment on the ground of vindictive prosecution. The district court ruled: (1) he was procedurally barred because he had not shown good cause under Fed. R. Crim. P. 12(c)(3) to excuse his untimeliness; and (2) on the merits, he had not demonstrated that he was being subjected to a vindictive prosecution. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of appeals affirmed, finding Defendant was not entitled to relief on appeal absent a showing of good cause to excuse the untimeliness of his motion. The Court therefore did not reach the merits of his vindictive-prosecution claim. View "United States v. Bowline" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Stacy Knapp entered a conditional plea of guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, for which she was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. The conditional plea allowed her to appeal the district court’s denial of her motion to suppress, and in the event it was successful, to withdraw her guilty plea. The validity of Knapp’s arrest was not at issue; this appeal turned on: (1) whether the search of her purse was one of her person for the purposes of Robinson; and (2) if the search was not of her person, whether the search was nevertheless justified because it was within “the area from within which [she] might [have] gain[ed] possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.” Knapp presented two arguments why the search of her purse was not one “of her person” at the time of her arrest: (1) the government was wrong on the facts because she was not carrying her purse when she was told she was under arrest, rather, it was sitting somewhere within the truck, and she had to “collect” it from the truck to bring it into the store; and (2) the district court did not make a specific factual finding comparing the exact time of the arrest with when Knapp grabbed her purse - It simply noted, “[Knapp] brought her purse with her into the grocery store.” The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded, finding the search of Knapp’s purse was not one of her person for the purposes of United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 234 (1973), and because the search of her purse was not actually supported by the Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 763 (1969) justifications, the exception for a search incident to arrest did not apply here. View "United States v. Knapp" on Justia Law