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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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On a well-lit summer evening in a Des Moines neighborhood with community-reported drug crimes, police officers Minnehan and Steinkamp lawfully stopped Haynes for suspected (mistaken) involvement in a drug deal. The exceedingly polite and cooperative exchange between the three did not make either officer view Haynes as a safety risk. Haynes could not find his driver’s license but shared three separate cards bearing his name. Steinkamp then handcuffed him. While the polite interaction continued, the cuffs stayed on. They also stayed on after a clean frisk and a consensual pocket search. They stayed on after the officers declined Haynes’s invitation to search another pocket and Haynes’s car. The officers declined another squad car’s offer to help.The district court rejected, on summary judgment, Haynes’s Fourth Amendment claims. 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Handcuffs constitute “greater than a de minimus intrusion,” their use requires the officer to demonstrate that the facts available to the officer would warrant a man of reasonable caution in believing that the action taken was appropriate. Here, the officers failed to point to specific facts supporting an objective safety concern during the encounter. Minnehan and Steinkamp had fair notice that they could not handcuff Haynes without an objective safety concern. View "Haynes v. Minnehan" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's adverse grant of summary judgment based on qualified immunity in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by a pretrial detainee against prison officials, alleging violation of his constitutional rights when he was denied visitation with his children due to a blanket policy of prohibiting detainees from visitations by minor children. The court determined that its case law up to now has not necessarily made clear that the prison officials violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by enforcing the blanket prohibition on visitation with minor children, and thus qualified immunity was appropriate to protect defendants from liability.However, the court noted that the time is ripe to clearly establish that such behavior may amount to a constitutional violation in the future. The court joined the Seventh Circuit in holding that prison officials who permanently or arbitrarily deny an inmate visits with family members in disregard of the factors described in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987), and Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), have acted in violation of the Constitution. View "Manning v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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In an action arising from a constitutional challenge to Missouri's remedial parole review process for individuals sentenced to mandatory life without the possibility of parole for homicide offenses committed as juveniles, a class of Missouri inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for such juvenile homicide offenses filed suit claiming that Missouri's parole review policies and practices violate their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court that Missouri's policies and practices, when implemented and considered in combination, worked to deprive plaintiffs of their Eighth Amendment right to a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. The court explained that, because the parole review process in place under Senate Bill 590 failed to adequately ensure that juveniles whose crimes reflect only transient immaturity—and who have since matured—will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence, it violated the Eighth Amendment.The court affirmed the order of the district court determining that the parole review process of SB 590 violated plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment rights, and affirmed the order determining that Missouri cannot use a risk assessment tool in its revised parole proceedings unless it has been developed to address the unique circumstances of the JLWOP Class. The court vacated the order regarding appointment of counsel and remanded for further proceedings. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion to strike. View "Brown v. Precythe" on Justia Law

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After the Eighth Circuit ordered a limited remand for further consideration of defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his car, the district court entered an order denying the motion. Defendant's appeal has been resubmitted for decision, and the court now affirms the judgment.The court concluded that the district court was authorized to supplement its factual findings on remand, and there was no error in finding additional facts. The court also concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, the district court did not err in concluding that there was reasonable suspicion of drug-related activity and the brief extension of the traffic stop to facilitate a dog sniff of the vehicle was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. View "United States v. Traylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 1994, the jury convicted Desmond and Jesse Rouse, their cousin Russell Hubbeling, and another cousin of sexually abusing five nieces. Defendants ultimately raised claims in Rule 60(b)(6) motions seeking relief from the dismissal of their initial 28 U.S.C. 2255 motions. The district court denied the Rule 60(b)(6) motions as successive section 2255 motions and granted certificates of appealability.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that newly discovered evidence in support of a claim previously denied and a subsequent change in substantive law justifying relief - fall squarely within the class of Rule 60(b) claims to which the Supreme Court has applied section 2244(b) restrictions. Furthermore, the motions were an improper attempt to circumvent the procedural requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty (AEDPA). Assuming arguendo that petitioners' Rule 60(b)(6) motions were not unauthorized second or successive motions subject to section 2244(b)(3), the district court did not err in determining that the allegations, including claims of newly discovered victim recantations, medical evidence and claims of juror bias, did not meet the extraordinarily high burden of proving actual innocence, a complete miscarriage of justice, or are evidence that would produce an acquittal in a new trial. View "Rouse v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography and the district court's imposition of the challenged special conditions of supervised release. However, the court remanded for the district clerk of court to amend the judgment as it relates to certain conditions of supervised release.The court concluded that defendant's sentence is not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving greater weight to the aggravating factor of an intended hands-on offense than it did to the mitigating factors argued by defendant; the district court considered all relevant factors; the district court did not consider any irrelevant or improper factors; and the district court imposed a sentence only after carefully weighing all the appropriate information before it. The court also concluded that, by conditionally reserving the right to appeal "the sentence," defendant conditionally reserved the right to appeal the special conditions of supervised release. The court further concluded that, while the district court acted within its discretion when imposing the special conditions, the written judgment is not entirely consistent with the district court's oral pronouncement at sentencing. Accordingly, the court directed the district court to amend the judgment. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's 96-month sentence imposed, on remand, based on defendant's probation violation after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. The court has previously held that, on revocation of probation, a sentence that falls within the original Sentencing Guidelines range for the underlying crime of conviction is presumptively reasonable. The court explained that, where, like here, the district court imposed a sentence below the original Guidelines range, it is nearly inconceivable that the district court abused its discretion in not varying downward still further. In this case, the district court, aware of defendant's Asperger's diagnosis and its tendency to impair individuals' insight and cause fixation problems, decided to give greater weight to the risk to the public arising from defendant's fascination with violence against children and his persistent attraction to child pornography. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion and defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Michael" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for possession of a firearm by a felon. The court concluded that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress and rejected defendant's Franks challenge where the alleged omissions were not clearly critical to the issuing judge's finding of probable cause. Without deciding whether exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry, the court concluded that any illegality in the entry was not the but-for cause of obtaining the evidence.The court also concluded that defendant's contention that the National Firearms Act is unconstitutional is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent. Finally, the court concluded that there was no error in the district court's calculation of a base offense level under USSG 4B1.2(b) based on a prior controlled substance offense; in imposing an enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(a)(3) based on the length of the shotgun's barrel; and in imposing an enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for possession of the weapon in connection with another offense - assault by use or display of a dangerous weapon. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for attempting to entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction; defendant's claims of several instances of prosecutorial misconduct were rejected; and there was no error in the district court's denial of defendant's motion to compel production of a sealed document explaining why a task force officer was involuntarily removed from the Homeland Security Investigations task force. In this case, the documents contain neither evidence directly related to defendant's case nor evidence that is material to his guilt or punishment. View "United States v. Thompson" 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 evidence of drugs found during a safety inspection of a semi transporting three vehicles, one of which contained the drugs. The court concluded that defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy because defendant did not prove that he owned the vehicle that the drugs were found in or that he was its sender or intended recipient. Therefore, defendant had no standing to challenge the search and the court did not reach the merits of his Fourth Amendment claim. View "United States v. Sierra-Serrano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law