Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for robbing an individual of personal property belonging to the United States. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's request for instructions on duress or coercion and/or voluntariness as he failed to meet his burden of proving the existence of duress/coercion by a preponderance of the evidence. In this case, defendant's evidence amounts to a generalized and speculative fear of violence, and is insufficient to demonstrate the requisite showing of a present, imminent, and impending threat.Even if defendant had established a fear that was immediate and well-founded, the court explained that defendant's duress defense would still fail because he cannot show he had no reasonable, legal alternative to engaging in the robbery. Finally, upon careful review of the record, the court found that the court did not prohibit defendant from arguing his theory of defense. View "United States v. Sharron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants William, Junior, Carter, and Senior appealed their convictions on various drug trafficking charges. In regard to Defendant William's challenges, the Eighth Circuit concluded that the district court did not err by denying his motion to suppress the wiretap evidence; abuse its discretion in limiting the cross-examination, err in denying his request for a multiple conspiracies jury instruction, and err in applying witness intimidation and aggravated role enhancements. In regard to Defendant Junior's challenges, the court concluded that there was no error in the district court's suppression of the wiretap evidence; in granting the government's motion to sever; in determining that the evidence was sufficient to sustain his convictions; and in limiting cross-examination.In regard to Defendant Carter's challenges, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his request for a buyer-seller instruction; did not err in determining that the evidence was sufficient to sustain his convictions; and did not abuse its discretion in determining that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. Finally, in regard to Defendant Senior's challenges, the court concluded that the district court properly denied his multiple-conspiracy and buyer-seller instructions, and the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction for conspiracy and distribution of crack and cocaine. The court affirmed the district court's judgment in its entirety. View "United States v. Campbell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for coercion and enticement of a minor. Applying de novo review, the court agreed with the district court that defendant's enticement of a minor was not induced by the government. Even if defendant could establish enticement, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to show that he had a predisposition to entice the minor. View "United States v. Tobar" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress controlled substances found at the time of his arrest as fruits of an unlawful seizure and the district court's determination that defendant is a career offender. The court agreed with the district court that the officer's polite request for defendant to stay with him was not a command and defendant's compliance did not convert the request into a command. Even if the officer's request is construed as a command that defendant remain in the parked vehicle, the court agreed with the district court that officer safety concerns made this brief seizure objectively reasonable under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968).The court also held that circuit precedent foreclosed defendant's contention that the district court did not err in concluding defendant was a career offender based on his three Illinois controlled substance offenses and his Iowa conviction for domestic assault with strangulation. The court need not consider the government's alternative argument that any error was harmless. View "United States v. Warren" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant was committed to the custody of the Attorney General based on a mental disease or defect and a substantial risk of dangerousness. Subsequently, defendant was conditionally released to the community. After the district court revoked his conditional release for violation of several conditions, he appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that 18 U.S.C. 4246(f) does not direct, or even expressly authorize the district court to order a mental health exam in a proceeding to consider revocation of conditional discharge. The court explained that denial of the exam did not deprive defendant of his Fifth Amendment due process rights where he was afforded a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the revocation of his conditional release, and he did not avail himself of statutory opportunities to show that he was eligible for discharge despite violating conditions of release. View "United States v. Spann" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting hearsay evidence by admitting certain statements. The court explained that the government did not introduce the statements to prove the truth of the matters asserted, and thus the statements were not hearsay and were properly admitted into evidence. Although the court found defendant's statements at the hospital should not have been admitted, the error was harmless. The court concluded that any improperly admitted hearsay testimony did not influence or had a slight influence on the verdict.The court also held that the district court did not err in rejecting the proposed self-defense jury instruction, and in giving the 8th Circuit Model Jury instruction on self-defense. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon. View "United States v. Earth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for seven drug-trafficking crimes. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine within the time period alleged in the indictment. The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court erred by permitting the jury to view the transcript before defense counsel had an opportunity to review the transcript and take a position as to its accuracy, because defendant's claim was not supported by the facts. In this case, defendant waived any objection that he may have had to the presentation of the transcript to the jury—including any objection on the ground that the transcript was inaccurate. Finally, the lack of a curative instruction regarding the transcript did not constitute error, let alone error that was plain. View "United States v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A grand jury indicted Defendants Magallon and Garcia Ortiz with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine and at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine. Garcia Ortiz was also indicted with possession with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine. Garcia Ortiz conditionally pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, and Magallon was convicted by a jury of the conspiracy charge.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Garcia Ortiz's motion to suppress evidence where officers had an objectively reasonable suspicion that the GMC Sierra's occupants were involved in criminal activity, namely drug distribution; reasonable suspicion clearly existed to justify the stop and remained present as further information unfolded during the stop; and the officers did not exceed the mission of the stop. Furthermore, the district court did not err in finding that Garcia Ortiz consented to the search of the Lexus. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of Garcia Ortiz's motion to suppress his post-Miranda statements. In this case, defendant voluntarily waived his rights against self-incrimination and to counsel. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in denying Magallon's request for a willful blindness instruction, and the evidence was sufficient to support defendant his conspiracy conviction. View "United States v. Magallon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for two counts of aiding and abetting a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction where the evidence showed he constructively possessed the Glock pistol in the Air Jordan bag and was in joint constructive possession of three other handguns. The court also held that there was no plain Rehaif error where defendant cannot show that the district court's failure to include a Rehaif instruction affected his substantial rights or seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the proceedings. Finally, the district court did not err by imposing a sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(1) for possessing three to seven firearms. View "United States v. Brooks-Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Under a prisoner transfer arrangement, petitioner is serving a thirty-year sentence imposed in Arkansas state court in 1996. After petitioner was sentenced in Arkansas, the federal government prosecuted him for offenses committed before his incarceration, and a federal court in New Mexico sentenced him in September 1997 to a term of 595 months' imprisonment. The federal government briefly assigned petitioner to a federal prison, but then concluded that he should have been returned to Arkansas and transferred him back there in October 1997.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for writ of habeas corpus based on petitioner's claim that time served since September 1997 on his Arkansas sentence should also be credited against his federal sentence. The court concluded that petitioner is not entitled to credit against his federal sentence where the district court did not clearly err in finding that Arkansas transferred custody to the United States pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum; the federal government's mistaken retention of custody does not constitute an assumption of primary jurisdiction where the State never intended to relinquish jurisdiction and the error was quickly rectified; and a detainer does not alter the custody status of a prisoner. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in denying petitioner's motion for appointment of counsel. View "Wiseman v. Wachendorf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law