Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries
In re: Roger Stone, Jr.
Roger Stone and members of his family petitioned for a writ of mandamus vacating the district court's orders modifying his conditions of release. Stone, a political consultant, was indicted on one count of obstruction of proceedings, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. Stone's charges stemmed from allegations that he obstructed investigations by Congress and the FBI into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election. The DC Circuit dismissed the petition, holding that Stone and his family members failed to avail themselves of adequate alternative remedies and thus were not entitled to mandamus relief. The court held that Stone could have appealed under 18 U.S.C. 3145(c), which expressly provides for judicial review of a detention order; Stone could have challenged the conditional release orders by filing a notice of appeal within fourteen days after their entry, but failed to do so; and Stone's family members may move the district court to reconsider or modify the conditions of release and, if unsuccessful, appeal the denial of that motion. View "In re: Roger Stone, Jr." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
People v. Neulander
The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Appellate Division that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant's N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 330.30 motion to set aside the verdict against him based on juror misconduct, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendant was entitled to a new trial. Defendant was convicted by a jury of murder and tampering with physical evidence. During the trial, one of the jurors sent and received hundreds of text messages about the case, accessed local media websites that were covering the trial, and lied under oath to the court to hide her misconduct. Defendant moved to set aside the verdict based on juror misconduct. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the juror's misconduct did not render the trial unfair. The Appellate Division reversed and granted a new trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the scope and egregiousness of the deception that occurred in this case required reversal of the conviction and a new trial. View "People v. Neulander" on Justia Law
United States v. Moran
The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a three-level sentencing enhancement for defendant's role in the offense where the evidence supported the district court's findings that he exercised the requisite control and authority over others to qualify as a manager or supervisor, and that the criminal activity involved five or more participants or was otherwise extensive. The court also did not clearly err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement for committing an offense as part of criminal conduct engaged in as a livelihood. In this case, considering the totality of the circumstances, the district court did not clearly err by finding that defendant's criminal conduct was his primary occupation and, even if the application of the enhancement was inappropriate, the error was harmless. View "United States v. Moran" on Justia Law
Commonwealth v. Matta
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, reversed the denial of Defendant's motion for a new trial on the Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 94C, 32J (32J) charge, and vacated the conviction of a violation of section 32J, holding that counsel was ineffective in failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence regarding an essential element under section 32J. Defendant was convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and with committing the crime within 100 feet of a public park, in violation of section 32J. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress; (2) with respect to the "public park or playground" provision of section 32J, the intent to commit the underlying drug crime is sufficient, without additional proof of knowledge of park or playground boundaries required; (3) whether an area of land is a public park under section 32J is a question of fact properly left to the fact-finder; and (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the variance between the park named in the indictment and the evidence presented at trial. View "Commonwealth v. Matta" on Justia Law
People v. Sanchez
Sanchez was charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon on a transit passenger, and receiving stolen property for acts against victim R.D. alleged to have occurred on a Muni bus in January 2016. The prosecution dismissed the complaint due to victim unavailability. Sanchez was later charged with another robbery, assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and vandalism for acts against another victim on in July 2016. He rejected plea offers. The prosecutor located and subpoenaed R.D. to testify under Evidence Code section 1101(b) (uncharged acts). R.D. testified at trial. The jury found Sanchez guilty of misdemeanor assault and felony vandalism but hung on the robbery count. Days before sentencing, the prosecution re-filed the previously dismissed case. Sanchez moved to dismiss the refiled complaint, citing vindictive prosecution in violation of his constitutional right to due process. The magistrate judge granted the motion, finding a presumption of vindictiveness. He explained the reasons for dismissal in a 19-page opinion which referenced no statutory grounds; the court’s minutes stated the case was dismissed “PURSUANT TO PENAL CODE 1385 FOR REASONS STATED ON THE RECORD.” The court of appeal affirmed the superior court’s refusal to reinstate. Sanchez’s motion to dismiss for vindictive prosecution was made and decided as a matter of constitutional due process. Such a dismissal is not an enumerated order that may be reviewed under section 871.5. View "People v. Sanchez" on Justia Law
People v. Kingston
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order revoking defendant's probation and determining that she had an ability to pay ordered fines and restitution. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating probation where defendant's violation of the terms of probation was the result of irresponsible or willful behavior. The court rejected defendant's claim under People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, 1168, and held that the trial court did not violate defendant's due process rights by imposing the assessments and restitution fine without first ascertaining her ability to pay them. View "People v. Kingston" on Justia Law
California v. Carkhum-Murphy
Defendant Mikeel Carkhum-Murphy was convicted by jury of second degree robbery. The trial court sustained prior strike and serious felony allegations and sentenced him to a nine-year state prison term. On appeal, defendant contended admitting evidence of prior gun ownership was prejudicial error, the use of prior convictions to impeach him was improper and the product of ineffective assistance of counsel, a juror was erroneously discharged for cause, and cumulative error warranted reversal. Furthermore, he contended the case should have been remanded to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to strike the five-year serious felony enhancement. Agreeing with only the last contention, the Court of Appeal remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion regarding the enhancement. The judgment was affirmed in all other resepects. View "California v. Carkhum-Murphy" on Justia Law
People v. R.C.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment entered after the juvenile court sustained a juvenile delinquency petition for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and attempted second degree robbery. The court held that the juvenile defendant's liability as an aider and abettor of the assault was based on his joint participation in an extremely dangerous situation that he helped create. In this case, defendant entered into the convenient store with his codefendant and escaped together; the jury could reasonably infer that they were jointly engaged in a robbery; and the natural and probable consequences of which included resistance by any of the defendants to avoid capture. The court rejected defendant's non-developed brain theory contention, and held that this contention confused criminal capacity with aider and abettor liability which focuses on whether a criminal act was a natural and probable consequence of another criminal act. View "People v. R.C." on Justia Law
In re Jeremiah S.
At 11:20 p.m., Gosuwin, carrying a pursed and holding an iPhone, saw two “young black men” wearing hoodies coming around the corner. One pushed her to the ground. The assailants pulled her bag and phone away, then continued on Market Street toward the Embarcadero. Gosuwin went to a nearby building, where a security guard called the police. Gosuwin did not see any weapons on her assailants. An officer used the “Find My iPhone app.” Gosuwin’s phone was “pinging” on the Embarcadero. Officer found Gosuwin’s purse there. At 11:29 p.m., officers received a dispatch call and went to the area to look for the “robbery suspects.” They noticed Jeremiah and J.A., both juveniles. One was wearing a hoodie. During the ensuing stop, an officer instructed Jeremiah to face a wall with his legs spread and his arms above his head. He did so. There was nothing about Jeremiah’s appearance, behavior, or actions to indicate that Jeremiah was armed and dangerous. A pat-down search revealed two phones in Jeremiah’s pocket. One phone’s background picture and password matched Gosuwin’s phone. The juvenile court denied a motion to suppress and ordered Jeremiah transferred to Alameda County where a previous wardship petition alleging second-degree robbery was pending. The court of appeal reversed the jurisdiction and disposition orders. The officer who conducted the pat-down did not present specific and articulable facts to support a reasonable suspicion that Jeremiah was armed and dangerous. The court declined to recognize a rule that would validate essentially any “pat-search” of a suspected robber who is lawfully detained following a report of a fresh robbery. View "In re Jeremiah S." on Justia Law
Dos Santos v. Georgia
Tia Marie Dos Santos entered negotiated guilty pleas in 2018 to felony murder and other crimes. In the same term of court, she filed a pro se motion to withdraw her guilty pleas. The trial court denied the motion as meritless, and Dos Santos timely appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. Pursuant to White v. Georgia, 806 SE2d 489 (2017), the trial court should have dismissed Dos Santos’s pro se motion as a legal nullity, because she was still represented by her plea counsel when she filed the motion. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case with direction to dismiss the motion to withdraw guilty pleas as inoperative. The Court also recognized, as it did not in White and some other cases, that had the trial court properly dismissed the motion, the Supreme Court would properly dismiss a subsequent appeal from that judgment, rather than affirming the judgment. The Court emphasized how important it was for criminal defense lawyers not to abandon their clients immediately after a guilty plea, and discussed how to deal with some of the practical issues that may arise from the holdings in White that were reiterated in this case. View "Dos Santos v. Georgia" on Justia Law