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

by
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
by
Plaintiff, an inmate of the ADC, filed a pro se 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that ADC had denied her hormone therapy to treat her diagnosed gender dysphoria in violation of her constitutional rights. The district court dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. After plaintiff appealed, the parties informed the court for the first time that plaintiff was in fact already receiving hormone therapy and had been for several months.The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiff's request for injunctive relief in the form of hormone therapy is moot. Therefore, the district court's judgment on the hormone therapy claim is vacated and remanded with directions to dismiss it as moot. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action in all other respects. View "Prowse v. Payne" on Justia Law

by
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
by
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
by
LRFP challenged the constitutionality (42 U.S.C. 1983) of three 2019 Arkansas statutes: Act 493 bans providers from performing an abortion when the “probable age” of the fetus is “determined to be greater than eighteen weeks’ gestation,” with exceptions for a medical emergency or a pregnancy that results from rape or incest; Act 619 prohibits a provider from intentionally performing an abortion with knowledge that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion “solely on the basis” of any reason to believe that the fetus has Down syndrome, with exceptions if the abortion is necessary to preserve the woman’s life or health and for rape or incest; and Act 700, providing that a person who performs an abortion must be a licensed physician “board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology” (OBGYN). A provider who violates these statutes commits a Class D felony and is subject to suspension or revocation of his medical license.The district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the Acts. The Eighth Circuit affirmed with respect to Act 493 and Act 619 and dismissed as moot the appeal concerning Act 700 because the plaintiffs were in compliance with the OBGYN requirement. Defendants presented no generally accepted medical evidence that the attainment of viability has shifted; Act 493 effectively prohibits a substantial universe of pre-viability abortions. Act 619 is a complete prohibition of abortions based on the pregnant woman’s reason for exercising the right to terminate her pregnancy before viability. View "Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Rutledge" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against the City and three police officers, in their individual and official capacities, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity because plaintiff has not shown a deprivation of a clearly established right. In this case, officers observed plaintiff recording both vehicles near the police station and officers and civilian employees entering and leaving the police station; the officers possessed other significant information: they were aware of recent criminal activity involving cars parked in the area, and they were aware of a previous filming and stalking incident that escalated into the murder of two officers; and plaintiff was non-responsive, evasive, and confrontational. The court explained that, in light of the circumstances, the officers' conduct was not objectively unreasonable under clearly established law. Furthermore, the officers are entitled to qualified immunity for the Terry stop because they had at least arguable reasonable suspicion. Finally, there is no cognizable Monell claim.However, the court reversed in part, holding that the officers are not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim of false arrest. The court explained that a reasonable officer would not have believed he had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for loitering because there is no evidence plaintiff was blocking the sidewalk or disrupting the activity of the police station. Furthermore, regardless of whether the Place exception applies to personal effects such as phones and cameras, the duration of the seizure here was unreasonable. Therefore, the officers violated plaintiff's clearly established right to be free of unreasonable seizures of his property and are not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Robbins v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law

by
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
by
Officer Baker, on school patrol, motioned for Garcia to stop and shouted for him to slow down. Garcia responded that he was going the speed limit. Garcia drove away. Later, in the afternoon, Garcia again saw Baker at the school. He extended his hand and raised his middle finger. Baker followed Garcia, called for backup, and pulled Garcia over. Baker told Garcia that there were children present and that his actions constituted disorderly conduct. Baker repeatedly asked for Garcia’s license but he ignored her requests and demanded that she call her supervisor. Other officers arrived. Baker told Garcia to get out his “g*d d**n D.L.” Garcia yelled that he was “protected by the First Amendment!” Baker opened the door and grabbed Garcia as he stepped out of the vehicle, placed him against his vehicle, handcuffed him, stating that he was being detained for disorderly conduct. Baker held Garcia in the squad car for seven minutes and issued a citation. As Garcia left, he yelled, “f**k you.” Baker later stated that she had noted a license plate violation. Garcia later apologized in writing, took a driving course, and entered into an “Agreement to Suspend Prosecution.” Garcia's complaint with the New Hope Police Department was not sustained.In Garcia’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit reversed with respect to Garcia’s First Amendment retaliation claim against Baker. Genuine disputes of material fact exist; a reasonable jury could find that Baker lacked probable cause to pull Garcia over. The court affirmed in part. Given the totality of the circumstances, the officers’ use of force in handcuffing Garcia was objectively reasonable. View "Garcia v. City of New Hope" on Justia Law

by
Harris pleaded guilty to first-degree assault. In 2012, the Circuit Court of Scott County, Missouri imposed a 15-year sentence, ordering that it run concurrently with Harris’s recently-imposed 25-year federal sentence, imposed after he pleaded guilty to interference with commerce by threat or violence, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition. His federal sentence, which was silent on whether it was to be served consecutively or concurrently, was later reduced to 183 months, in light of the Supreme Court’s Johnson decision.Harris is in state custody, receiving credit only against his state sentence. He will begin serving his federal sentence after he completes his state sentence and is transferred to the Bureau of Prisons. Despite the state court’s order, Harris will serve consecutive, not concurrent, sentences.Harris sought habeas relief, 28 U.S.C. 2254. The district court denied relief. The Eighth Circuit reversed. Harris alleged sufficient facts to apprise the court and the state of a distinct basis for his claim—that Plea Counsel advised that his 25-year federal sentence would “swallow” up any state sentence he would receive for pleading guilty to assault. On remand, the district court must determine whether Harris procedurally defaulted that claim. View "Harris v. Wallace" on Justia Law

by
Herrera's husband fraudulently used the identity of a lawful permanent U.S. resident (LPR) to become a citizen. Herrera obtained LPR status as the wife of a citizen and became a citizen. Herrera's four children are U.S. citizens. In 2011, Herrera was convicted of second-degree theft. The government discovered Herrera’s false statement. She pleaded guilty to naturalization fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1425(a). The district court revoked her citizenship and restored her to LPR status, 8 U.S.C. 1451(e).If an alien commits fraud or misrepresents a material fact to gain a benefit under the immigration laws, she may be deported, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C)(i); 1227(a)(1)(A). Herrera sought a waiver available to aliens who committed immigration fraud but are the parent of a citizen and separately sought cancellation of removal as an LPR. DHS added a charge of removability for convictions of crimes involving moral turpitude based on Herrera's theft conviction, then withdrew the charge of removability for immigration fraud. The BIA affirmed that she was ineligible for a fraud waiver because she was no longer charged under the fraud provision and was ineligible for cancellation of removal because she had obtained her LPR status by fraud.The Eighth Circuit denied relief, rejecting Herrera’s argument that DHS could not withdraw the fraud charge because it had already been sustained by the IJ. The government is permitted to adjust the charges against an alien during the immigration court case. View "Gonzalez v. Rosen" on Justia Law