Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Petitioner challenged the district court's denial of his petition for habeas relief after he pleaded guilty to an accomplice to murder charge and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that petitioner's counsel's initial performance was not deficient under Strickland v. Washington, where counsel's opposition to a state hospital evaluation that could be used against him was an acceptable strategic decision. Furthermore, petitioner failed to prove that counsel was deficient in failing to have a competency evaluation performed prior to the entry of the plea. The court held that, taken as a whole, the evidence was insufficient to establish a reasonable probability that petitioner would have been found incompetent to proceed. Therefore, petitioner could not establish that he was prejudiced by counsel's decisions. View "Camacho v. Kelley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for obstruction of justice for threatening to retaliate. The court held that the difference between the verdict director and the indictment was so immaterial as to be de minimis, and defendant did not suffer prejudice. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support a verdict that defendant threatened an individual with the intent to retaliate against the individual's client for the client's participation as a party to an official proceeding. View "United States v. Stephens" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud in foreign labor contracting, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to demonstrate that defendant agreed with others to bring H-2A workers to the U.S. and to require them to pay a recruitment fee, travel costs, and kickbacks on their wages; she had already been using the H-visa system for years and knew its legal requirement; and she knew that the scheme would require that she or the others would file false certifications with DOL and DHS under penalty of perjury and that those false statements would materially affect agency decisions for an H-2A employer. In this case, the conspirators knew what they were doing was illegal and carried out a number of overt acts in furtherance of their arrangement. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court should have granted her motion to question jurors individually at an evidentiary hearing as well as her motion for a new trial after an Assistant United States Attorney overheard a juror say the word "guilty," in the presence of other jurors, on an elevator. View "United States v. Bart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed defendant's sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. The court held that the North Dakota law for accomplice to burglary, which defendant was previously convicted of four times, was indivisible and criminalized more than the definition of "burglary" under federal law. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Kinney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of seven special conditions of supervised release. The special conditions were imposed after revocation of defendant's supervised release and new sentence after he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct involving a child by indecent exposure. Defendant argued that the district court imposed the challenged conditions without providing a sufficient explanation of how the conditions satisfied the requirements of 18 U.S.C. 3583(d). The court held that defendant could not meet his burden to show that the district court made an obvious error that caused prejudice and a miscarriage of justice. View "United States v. Thompson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Officers Richter and Sullivan, patrolling a high crime neighborhood, observed McLemore standing by a BMW parked at a residence frequented by gang members. Days earlier, investigating reports of a nearby shooting, Richter and Officer Del Valle had seen Rode exit the BMW. They learned that Rode was affiliated with the gang and may have been the victim of an unreported shooting. Richter radioed Del Valle, patrolling in a different car, and told her to follow the BMW. Del Valle saw that it had a dealer advertising plate instead of a rear license plate and a temporary paper card taped inside of the rear window. Del Valle radioed that she had “no violations yet” but “you can see a plate, but you can’t read what’s on it.” Sullivan replied, “there you go.” Del Valle made an “equipment stop.” She did not examine whether the temporary card was valid (it was) because “I already had the probable cause.” During the stop, Del Valle smelled marijuana, and Richter discovered a firearm during his pat-down search of McLemore. The district court ruled that the stop violated the Fourth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The government failed to identify what violation of state law the BMW operator was suspected of committing and did not introduce into evidence either the BMW’s temporary registration card or a copy of the standard-form card; neither officer testified that they can usually read temporary cards at night or that they had previous problems with fraudulent or invalid cards. View "United States v. McLemore" on Justia Law

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After being arrested, Whitney was taken to the St. Louis University Hospital for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. He attempted to escape and said that he wanted the police to take his life so that he would not be sent back to prison. He was determined to be suicidal. After being treated by psychiatry and showing improvement, he was released and transported to the St. Louis City Justice Center. Two days later, Whitney was moved to a medical unit, suffering from detoxification from heroin use, congestive heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. Sharp was assigned to monitor Whitney in his cell via closed-circuit television. Sharp last saw Whitney pacing by the shower area at 9:05 a.m. Within the next 14 minutes, she discovered that he had hanged himself, using his ripped hospital gown. The district court dismissed 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims by Whitney’s estate. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The complaint failed to allege that Sharp knew that Whitney presented a suicide risk. There was no claim that any identifiable jail official had knowledge or suspected that Whitney was suicidal or was harming himself; the complaint fails to allege any constitutional violation arising out of a municipal policy that would expose the city to Monell liability. View "Whitney v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

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After being arrested, Whitney was taken to the St. Louis University Hospital for treatment of an irregular heartbeat. He attempted to escape and said that he wanted the police to take his life so that he would not be sent back to prison. He was determined to be suicidal. After being treated by psychiatry and showing improvement, he was released and transported to the St. Louis City Justice Center. Two days later, Whitney was moved to a medical unit, suffering from detoxification from heroin use, congestive heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes. Sharp was assigned to monitor Whitney in his cell via closed-circuit television. Sharp last saw Whitney pacing by the shower area at 9:05 a.m. Within the next 14 minutes, she discovered that he had hanged himself, using his ripped hospital gown. The district court dismissed 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims by Whitney’s estate. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The complaint failed to allege that Sharp knew that Whitney presented a suicide risk. There was no claim that any identifiable jail official had knowledge or suspected that Whitney was suicidal or was harming himself; the complaint fails to allege any constitutional violation arising out of a municipal policy that would expose the city to Monell liability. View "Whitney v. City of St. Louis" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of failure to register as a sex offender after traveling in interstate commerce in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, 18 U.S.C. 2250(a). On appeal, defendant challenged a special condition prohibiting him from possessing or using any electronic device with internet access without the prior approval of his probation officer. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal because defendant knowingly and voluntarily entered a plea agreement waiving his right to appeal. Even if the appeal were not barred by the appeal waiver, defendant was not entitled to relief because the district court did not abuse its discretion. In this case, defendant's use of computers and the internet was justifiably concerning to the district court. View "United States v. Dallman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's prior Missouri convictions under section 195.211, RSMo 2003 and section 195.242, RSMo 2000 qualified as controlled substance offenses for purposes of calculating defendant's offense level. The court explained that, by comparison to the generic Guidelines definition, defendant's convictions under sections 195.211.3 and 195.242.1 require more than "mere words of an offer" for a sale, thus qualifying as controlled substance offenses. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law