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Colon used his Indianapolis furniture store and a mall property rental business as a front to hide his criminal operation--buying large quantities of cocaine and heroin from Arizona and reselling the drugs to Indiana dealers. Convicted of drug conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements in a bankruptcy proceeding, Colon was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Colon’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence of money laundering. Colon did not separate the financial aspects of his drug dealing from the financial aspects of his legitimate businesses. A reasonable jury could have inferred from the differential between Colon’s mall income and drug proceeds, the scope of his drug operation, his comingling of proceeds, and the overwhelming evidence showing that the mall was merely a front to enable and conceal his drug trafficking, that Colon was laundering money and that each cash deposit included at least some drug proceeds. While the district court erred in calculating his advisory sentencing range by applying leadership enhancements under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1, because Colon was only a middleman, the error was harmless. The sentencing transcript, read as a whole, demonstrates that the court would have imposed the same sentence regardless of the enhancements. View "United States v. Colon" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by the State seeking to overturn a conviction it recently obtained, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court denying the State’s Utah. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion in the underlying criminal proceeding, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to adjudicate the State’s motion and that rule 60(b) provided the mechanism through which the State may bring its challenge. After final judgment had been entered against Bela Fritz, the State returned to the district court claiming Fritz had misled it about his identity. The State filed a motion under rule 60(b) seeking to vacate the conviction, sentence, and judgment. The district court denied the motion, concluding that following imposition of a valid sentence, a district court loses subject matter jurisdiction over a criminal case and that the State needed to proceed under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act. The State filed this petition for extraordinary relief asking that the Supreme Court direct the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the State’s motion for relief under rule 60(b). The Supreme Court exercised its discretion and granted the writ, thus vacating the order denying the State’s motion and instructing the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the matter. View "State v. Honorable Ann Boyden" on Justia Law

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Alondo Greenleaf was convicted of aggravated assault after stabbing a man in the back. Greenleaf testified it was an accident, and on appeal he contended he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense attorney did not offer what Greenleaf called an “accident instruction” based on the excusable homicide statute. The Mississippi Supreme Court found Greenleaf failed to rebut the presumption this was sound trial strategy, so it affirmed Greenleaf’s conviction and sentence. View "Greenleaf v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Defendant Howard Payton was convicted for the 2010 kidnapping and rape of a university student. At trial, inter alia, the State presented definitive scientific evidence of guilt: Payton’s DNA matched the DNA sample obtained from N.B.’s rape kit so closely that the probability of finding someone other than Payton with the same DNA profile was less than one in 999 trillion. It was not until January 25, 2016, that Payton filed a twelve-page pro se motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or, in the alternative, a new trial. The State did not raise the untimeliness of the motion. In fact, the State did not respond to the motion. The trial judge considered the substantive issues raised in the motion and, finding no merit, denied Payton’s requests for relief one week later on February 1, 2016. Payton made five filings regarding appealing his motion for JNOV. On March 9, 2016, the trial court granted Payton in forma pauperis status; at that time, he was appointed counsel who entered an appearance on Payton's behalf. A few days before the appeal brief was due, however, Payton died. Appellate counsel moved for abatement ab initio, asking. He asked that the Court allow a thirty-day period or other reasonable amount of time to allow any personal representative of Payton to come forward and to move for a substitution for the deceased appellant. If no such motion was made, counsel requested the Court enter an order of abatement voiding the entire criminal proceeding against Payton from its inception, nullifying the petit jury’s verdict and the circuit judge’s judgment of conviction and remanding the case back to the same trial court with instructions to dismiss the grand jury’s indictment, all without notice to the victim. "Because of the increased recognition of crime victims in our constitution and statutory law, and because the policies undergirding stare decisis are not served by continued application of the abatement ab initio doctrine, we expressly overrule Gollott [v. Mississippi, 646 So.2d 1297 (1994)]." Since no motion was filed for substitution pursuant to Rule 43(a), the Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Payton’s appeal as moot and left his conviction intact. Appellate counsel's motion to abate Payton’s conviction ab initio was denied. View "Payton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying defendant's motion to expunge his misdemeanor conviction for possession of methamphetamine following his successful motion to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor. In ruling against defendant, the trial judge stated that defendant could not establish that he had lived an honest and upright life as required by Penal Code, 1203.4a, subdivision (a) because he has been in continuous state or federal custody following his conviction. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that defendant has not established that he has led an honest and upright life during his state and federal custody. The court held that compliance with prison regulations in an institutional setting does not satisfy the requirement of an honest and upright life. The court explained that a custodial setting necessarily restricts an inmate's exercise of free will, whereas an honest and upright life demands more than mere compliance with prison regulations or participation in prison classes and activities. View "People v. Maya" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained when a tribal officer twice searched defendant's truck. The officer initially pulled up behind the truck, which was parked on the side of the highway, to see if defendant and his young child needed assistance. The panel could not agree that the officer appropriately determined that defendant was a non-Indian just by looking at him. The panel held that the officer acted outside of his jurisdiction as a tribal officer when he detained defendant, a non-Indian, and searched his vehicle without first making any attempt to determine whether defendant was in fact an Indian. The panel held that the exclusionary rule applies in federal court prosecutions to evidence obtained in violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act's (ICRA) Fourth Amendment counterpart. The panel also held that a tribal officer does not necessarily conduct an unreasonable search or seizure for ICRA purposes when he acts beyond his tribal jurisdiction. However, tribal authority consideration is highly pertinent to determining whether a search or seizure is unreasonable under the ICRA. In this case, the officer violated the ICRA Fourth Amendment analogue by seizing defendant, a non-Indian, while operating outside the Crow Tribe's jurisdiction. View "United States v. Cooley" on Justia Law

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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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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of an unregistered firearm. The court held that defendant's failure to file a timely pretrial motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(3) foreclosed each of the defective indictment issues he sought to raise on appeal. Although defendant acknowledged that the district court appropriately rejected his Speedy Trial Act claim, he asked the court to adopt a new rule giving preference to the defendant's assertion of his speedy trial rights over the wishes of his attorney and the court. The court declined to do so and explained that this rule would be contrary to the plain text of the statute and the court's prior decisions. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence regarding the drugs seized at the time of defendant's arrest because the evidence was clearly intrinsic to the charged offense. View "United States v. Fogg" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated defendants' convictions for marriage fraud and immigration fraud. The court held that the trial judge's ex parte meeting with the jurors and his instruction about assessing the credibility of a testifying defendant were sufficiently sharp departures from the law of this circuit as to undermine the court's confidence in the fairness of the trial. In this case, during the course of the trial, the judge met with jurors ex parte to discuss the jurors' concerns about two defendants' out-of-court behavior. The judge also instructed the jurors that they could consider defendants' self-interest in the outcome of the case when analyzing their trial testimony. View "United States v. Mehta" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree robbery and aiding, abetting, or advising first-degree robbery stemming from two separate cases, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictments for violation of his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial; (2) Defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights and subsequent statements were voluntary, knowing, and intelligent; and (3) although Defendant invoked his right to an attorney, his unambiguous request occurred after he had confessed to the crimes, and therefore, the detectives’ error in continuing the interview after that point was harmless, and the circuit court’s failure to exclude Defendant’s post-invocation statements was also harmless. View "State v. Two Hearts" on Justia Law