Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Vickers punched his victim once but the victim suffered a fractured skull, brain hemorrhaging, and was in a coma for four days. Pennsylvania law provides that for a criminal case to be tried without a jury, “[t]he judge shall ascertain from the defendant whether this is a knowing and intelligent waiver, and such colloquy shall appear on the record. The waiver shall be in writing, made a part of the record, and signed by the defendant, the attorney for the Commonwealth, the judge, and the defendant’s attorney.” Those procedures were not followed in Vickers’s case. The judge found Vickers guilty. Vickers sought state post-conviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Because Vickers’s private attorney had been replaced by a public defender, the attorney was unaware that the process had not been followed, but recommended that Vickers pursue a bench trial for strategic reasons and thought that Vickers wanted a bench trial. The court concluded that Vickers “freely, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his jury trial rights.” Vickers sought habeas relief, 28 U.S.C. 2254. The Third Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of relief. The proper prejudice inquiry is whether there is a reasonable likelihood that, but for his counsel’s deficient performance, Vickers would have exercised his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. He failed to make that showing. View "Vickers v. Superintendent Graterford SCI" on Justia Law

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Officers executed sealed search warrants at the home and office of Fattah. More than two years later, a grand jury indicted Fattah on 23 counts relating to bank fraud and tax evasion. Before the indictment, the press learned about the investigation; reporters waited at Fattah’s home to report the story. At Fattah’s trial, an FBI agent admitted that he had disclosed confidential information to a reporter in exchange for information pertinent to the investigation. Fattah argued that the agent’s conduct violated the Sixth Amendment because the pre-indictment press caused him to lose his job, which rendered him unable to retain the counsel of his choice, and that the agent’s conduct violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process. The Third Circuit affirmed Fattah’s convictions, noting that Fattah’s claim to unrealized income was contradicted by his statements and actions and that the FBI agent’s actions were not “so outrageous that due process principles would absolutely bar the government from invoking judicial processes to obtain a conviction.” View "United States v. Fattah" on Justia Law