Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of felony murder, robbery in the first degree, and other crimes, holding that any error in the trial court's failure to suppress evidence obtained from a search warrant was harmless.On appeal, Defendant challenged the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a search of his cell phone, arguing that the application for the warrant authorizing the search lacked a particular description of the items to be seized and that the affidavit supporting the application failed to establish probable cause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State met its burden of showing that any error in the denial of Defendant's motion to suppress was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Bowden" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the trial convicting Defendant of various crimes arising from five criminal cases, which included first degree robbery, second degree arson, and attempt to commit murder, holding that the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress.At issue on appeal was the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of his cell phone and evidence obtained from his cell phone service provider. Specifically in question was whether the warrants authorizing those searches were supported by probable cause and whether they particularly described the place to be searched and the things to be seized. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the information obtained from the execution of both warrants; and (2) this error was harmless with respect to some, but not all, of the crimes alleged in the indictment. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of murder, assault in the first degree by means of the discharge of a firearm, and attempt to commit assault in the first degree by means of the discharge of a firearm, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights in this case.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence seized from his father on the grounds that the police officers' warrantless entry into the residence home under the emergency exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement was justified. Alternatively, the court deterred that, even if the initial entry was unlawful, Defendant's shooting of the victim sufficiently attenuated that unlawful act from the subsequent lawful search and seizure of the evidence at issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that (1) under the totality of the circumstances, it was objectively reasonable for the officers to conclude that there was an emergency justifying their initial entry into the residence; and (2) in light of this conclusion, the subsequent entries were similarly justified. View "State v. Samuolis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Appellant of incest for the sexual abuse of T.N. and sentencing her to 100 years in prison, holding that there was no error or abuse of proceedings in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not violate Defendant's "right to access witnesses" in denying her motion to to conduct pretrial interviews with T.N. and J.M.; (2) the State's failure to lodge with the district court forensic interviews from a different case did not violate Defendant's right to a fair trial, and Defendant was not entitled to a new trial on this ground; and (3) based on the totality of the evidence, this Court declines to employ the doctrine of plain error to review Defendant's claim that the district court should have given a specific unanimity instruction. View "State v. Mathis" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence Defendant received for being a felon in possession of a firearm, holding that any error in the district court's methodology in arriving at the sentence was harmless.Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court imposed a sentence of eighty-seven months in prison, which was less than the statute maximum of 120 months requested by the government. On appeal, Defendant challenged the procedures used by the district court in arriving at his sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding (1) any error in the district court's methodology was harmless; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining claims of error. View "United States v. Settles" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, two jail officers, and dismissing Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims that Defendants caused his injuries, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that either defendant violated his constitutional rights.Plaintiff was booked into Boone County Detention Center on nonviolent drug charges and was placed in a cell with Jordan Webster, a fellow detainee. Webster attacked and beat Plaintiff during the night. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to protect him from the risk of harm posed by Webster. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk of harm by failing to protect him from Webster. View "Stein v. Gunkel" on Justia Law

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The Sixth Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's motion to suppress, holding that there was no violation of Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights under the circumstances of this case.Defendant entered a conditional plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant subsequently brought this appeal challenging the district court's order denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the arresting officer lacked probable cause to initiate the traffic stop leading to the search of his car and unconstitutionally prolonged the stop. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to warrant a prudent person in believing Defendant had violated 4511.431(A); and (2) the officer had probable cause to detain Defendant, investigate the source of a marijuana odor, and continue search the entire vehicle for marijuana. View "United States v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that Defendants Kinetic Concepts, Inc., and its indirect subsidiary KCI USA, Inc. (collectively, “KCI”) submitted claims to Medicare in which KCI falsely certified compliance with certain criteria governing Medicare payment for the use of KCI’s medical device for treating wounds. The district court granted summary judgment to KCI, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to the False Claims Act elements of materiality and scienter.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment. The court agreed that compliance with the specific criterion that there be no stalled cycle would not be material if, upon case-specific review, the Government routinely paid stalled-cycle claims. In other words, if stalled-cycle claims were consistently paid when subject to case-specific scrutiny, then a false statement that avoided that scrutiny and instead resulted in automatic payment would not be material to the payment decision. The court concluded, however, that the record did not show this to be the case. The court considered administrative rulings concerning claims that were initially denied, post-payment and pre-payment audits of particular claims, and a 2007 report by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The court concluded that none of these forms of evidence supported the district court’s summary judgment ruling.   The court held that the district court further erred in ruling that there was insufficient evidence that KCI acted with the requisite scienter and that the remainder of the district court’s reasoning concerning scienter rested on a clear failure to view the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. View "STEVEN HARTPENCE V. KINETIC CONCEPTS, INC." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Nathaniel Johnson was arrested on a Greyhound bus after an encounter with Special Agent Jarrell Perry. Law enforcement found two packages of methamphetamine in Johnson’s backpack, and Johnson gave several incriminating statements. The district court denied Johnson’s motion to suppress the physical evidence and his statements. Johnson appealed. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court determined Perry had probable cause to arrest Johnson and to seize the bundle of clothing and backpack. But while seizing the items from the bus, Perry conducted an illegal search of the bundle by reaching inside Johnson’s open backpack and feeling the bundle in an exploratory manner. Then later, at the DEA office, still without a warrant, Perry conducted a second illegal search of the backpack and the bundle. And contrary to the government’s position, the plain-view exception to the warrant requirement could not apply because at neither point in time were the contents of the bundle or backpack a foregone conclusion. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Guy McDonald was arrested and charged for dealing methamphetamine. He pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate federal narcotics laws at the federal district court in Eastern Oklahoma. He received a sentence of 292 months’ imprisonment. McDonald appealed, arguing the district court erred in calculating his base offense level and in applying three sentencing enhancements to his sentence. Specifically, McDonald argued the district court improperly relied on facts alleged in his presentence investigation report given the objections he raised at the sentencing hearing. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. McDonald" on Justia Law