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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), to probe the credibility of the FBI agent who procured a warrant for samples of his DNA. In this case, defendant conditionally pleaded guilty to bank robbery. The court held that, although the wording of the warrant affidavit was misleading, curing the inaccuracy would not defeat probable cause. Nevertheless, the court held that defendant failed to make a substantial preliminary showing that the misstatement was deliberate or reckless. View "United States v. Daniels" on Justia Law

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Richard Green was convicted for the attempted murder and kidnapping of his wife, Cathleen Green (“Cathy”). Green appealed, arguing that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict him of both counts. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found a reasonable juror could have found that the State had proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of both convictions based on the testimony, evidence, and applicable law. Therefore, it affirmed Green’s convictions and sentences. View "Green v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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On December 23, 2013, Abdur Ambrose, Stevie Ambrose, and Orlander Dedeaux were indicted for capital murder of Robert Trosclair with the underlying felony being kidnapping. The trial court severed the case for separate trials. Ambrose proceeded to trial on June 15, 2015. Following the culpability phase of trial, a jury found Ambrose guilty of capital murder. Following the penalty phase of trial, the jury imposed the death penalty. Ambrose appealed, raising twelve assignments of error. Finding only one harmless error, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no other reversible error and affirmed Ambrose's conviction and sentence. View "Ambrose v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant Charles Bolton and Linda Bolton's convictions and sentences for various counts of attempted tax evasion and filing false tax returns. The court held that Charles failed to show plain error with respect to the sufficiency of the indictments for tax evasion and filing false tax returns; the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts of guilt against both defendants; claims of Brady violations were rejected; the district court's admission of hearsay statements was invited error by both sets of defense counsel, but the error did not rise to the level of manifest injustice and defendants have waived their Confrontation Clause rights under United States v. Ceballos, 789 F.3d 607, 616 (5th Cir. 2015); claims of prosecutorial misconduct rejected; there was no plain error in the jury instructions; the district court properly calculated the loss amount; and defendants' sentences were substantively reasonable and not otherwise defective. The court modified the district court's judgment to show that the restitution owed by the Boltons does not become due until they begin their terms of supervised release. View "United States v. Bolton" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to bank fraud. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 3B1.3 for abusing a position of trust where she was the accounts payable clerk for her company and used her position to significantly commission and conceal her fraudulent scheme. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) for using sophisticated means where defendant employed multiple methods that made it more difficult to detect her bank fraud. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s petition seeking a writ of error coram nobis, holding that the trial court’s findings were supported by the record, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to issue the writ. Appellant entered a negotiated plea of nolo contendere to charges of manslaughter, manufacture of a controlled substance, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with physical evidence. In his coram nobis petition, Appellant alleged that he was coerced into entering the plea. The trial court denied the petition on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief, holding that Appellant had not shown an abuse of the trial court’s discretion in declining to issue the writ. View "Davis v. State" on Justia Law

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After federal agents arrested Robert Doggart for plotting to attack an Islamic community at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, he attempted to plead guilty to making a threat in interstate commerce, a crime carrying a sentence of no more than five years. But the district court found that he had not made a cognizable threat and rejected his plea under Criminal Rule 11. After that and after the government added some charges, a jury convicted Doggart of solicitation to damage religious property and solicitation to commit arson, leaving him with a sentence of almost 20 years. Because the district court wrongly rejected the plea agreement, the Sixth Circuit reversed its decision to reject the agreement, left in place the later convictions, and remanded for it to reconsider the agreement under the correct law. View "United States v. Doggart" on Justia Law

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When Brian Bassett was 16 years old, he was living in a "shack" with Nicholaus McDonald after Bassett's parents '"kicked [him] out'" of their home. With McDonald's assistance, Bassett snuck back into his home and shot his mother and father. His brother was drowned in the bathtub, an act that McDonald initially confessed to but later blamed on Bassett at trial. Bassett was convicted of three counts of aggravated first degree murder for the deaths of his mother, father, and brother. The judge commented that Bassett was "a walking advertisement" for the death penalty and sentenced him to three consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole. At issue here was the constitutionality of sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole or early release. The State appealed a Court of Appeals decision holding that the provision of Washington's Miller-fix statute that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be sentenced to life without parole violated the Washington Constitution's ban on cruel punishment. The appellate court adopted the categorical approach, rather than Washington's traditional Fain proportionality test, and found that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constituted cruel punishment. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision and held that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole or early release constitutes cruel punishment and therefore is unconstitutional under article I, section 14 of the Washington Constitution. View "Washington v. Bassett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal of an order denying him pauper status so that he could proceed with a petition for writ of habeas corpus to challenge his convictions for capital murder and aggravated robbery, holding that the circuit court correctly found that Appellant failed to set out a colorable cause of action in his proposed habeas petition, and therefore, Appellant could not prevail on appeal. In his habeas petition, Appellant alleged that the State failed to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the trial judge erred and abused his discretion, and his trial attorney and appellate counsel were ineffective. The circuit court found that Appellant failed to support a claim cognizable in habeas proceedings. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Appellant petition clearly failed to state a colorable cause of action. View "Gardner v. Kelley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition asking the Court to reinvest jurisdiction in the trial court to consider a petition for writ of error coram nobis, holding that Petitioner failed to make sufficient allegations to warrant coram nobis relief. Petitioner was convicted of aggravated robbery, theft of property, and first degree sexual abuse. In his coram nobis petition, Petitioner alleged that the prosecutor during his criminal trial withheld evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), which would have established that his confession to the robberies was coerced. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because Petitioner’s arguments pertained to matters that were wholly contained within the record and known to the defense at the trial, Petitioner’s allegations did not warrant reinvesting jurisdiction in the circuit court to consider a coram nobis petition. View "Bunch v. State" on Justia Law