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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence after he conditionally pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that the officer who stopped defendant lacked reasonable suspicion to detain defendant. However, the court held that the officer discovered the evidence against defendant after he learned of an outstanding arrest warrant, and thus the initial violation of defendant's Fourth Amendment rights was sufficiently unrelated to the ultimate discovery of the evidence that suppression was inappropriate. Therefore, the discovery of the evidence used against defendant was attenuated from his unlawful stop. View "United States v. Lowry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant pleaded guilt to one count of bank robbery and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon, and was sentenced to 216 months in prison. On appeal, defendant argued that the district court violated his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment by retroactively increasing the severity of his punishment based on an "unforeseeable" judicial decision in United States v. Swopes, 886 F.3d 668 (8th Cir. 2018) (en banc), that was filed after the commission of his firearms offense. The Eighth Circuit held that the en banc decision in Swopes was not so unexpected as to raise due process concerns. View "United States v. Dunlap" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision finding petitioner ineligible for cancellation of removal because he sustained a prior conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude when he was convicted of theft by receiving in violation of Nebraska law. The court also held that Ali v. Barr, 924 F.3d 983, 986 (8th Cir. 2019), foreclosed petitioner's claim that neither the IJ nor the BIA had subject matter jurisdiction over his removal proceedings, because the initial notice to appear served on petitioner did not include information about when and where to appear. View "Inzunza Reyna v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 based on Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). The court held that Johnson did not justify relief in this case, because defendant's prior conviction for first degree assault qualified as a violent felony under the force clause. Therefore, defendant was not sentenced based on the residual clause and failed to satisfy the requirements for proceeding with a successive motion under section 2255(h)(2). View "Unverzagt v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit joined the majority of circuits and held that a potential violation of the right to proceed pro se does not, in and of itself, render a plea involuntary. Defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and then appealed, challenging the denial of his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation. The court held that defendant waived his right to bring his Sixth Amendment claim where the district court complied with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 and defendant's plea was knowing and voluntary. In this case, although the district court may have violated defendant's right to self-representation, he was barred from bringing his appeal on this record. View "United States v. Dewberry" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed his conviction of three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of two witnesses that claimed they were sexually assaulted by defendant in order to establish a pattern of behavior; defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses; and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the motion for mistrial where, considering the nature of the charged offenses and the evidence against defendant, a blurted comment that he had previously committed a parole violation was not the sort of evidence that would create an overwhelming probability that the jury would be unable to follow the curative instruction. However, the court held that defendant had a constitutionally protected opportunity for effective cross-examination regarding the victim's PTSD testimony, and the court was unable to determine whether the failure to allow access to the records was a permissible limitation on cross-examination or whether defendant was denied access to information that might dramatically undermine the testimony of his accuser, the sole eyewitness to the assault. Accordingly, the court remanded the case for the limited purpose of conducting an in camera review of the records to determine the appropriate course of action. View "United States v. Arias" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Although petitioner concedes that his petition was untimely, he argued that his claim should be equitably tolled. The court held that petitioner's failure to receive a letter from his attorney stating that she would not file a claim on his behalf, and his failure to follow up, did not amount to extraordinary circumstances requiring equitable tolling. Even if petitioner could show an extraordinary circumstance, he would not benefit from equitable tolling because he was not reasonably diligent in pursuing his claims. View "Chachanko v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. Even assuming that it was error to allow an officer to testify regarding defendant's pre-Miranda statements and actions, the admission of the testimony did not violate defendant's substantial rights. In this case, the officer testified that defendant gave a false explanation for his presence and hung his head in an apparent show of defeat at having been caught. The court rejected defendant's alleged Confrontation Clause violations, because any violation would not have posed a reasonable probability of altering the outcome of the trial and were not plain error. View "United States v. Valquier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two drug trafficking offenses. The government had been unaware of payments that local police made to a cooperating witness and thus failed to disclose the information to the defense. Defendant moved for a new trial based on the nondisclosure. The court held that the undisclosed payments were not material to the outcome of the proceeding and thus the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a new trial. In this case, the impeachment value of the payment information was not so devastating as to undermine the entire prosecution. View "United States v. Dones-Vargas" 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 on the ground that his arrest and subsequent searches of his hotel room and vehicle violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The court held that the evidence taken as a whole provided ample support for the district court's finding that the officers would have applied for a warrant without the illegal search. The court also held that there was also probable cause to support issuance of the search warrant even without information gleaned from the initial search. View "United States v. Anguiano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law