Petitioner, convicted of murdering two teenage boys with intent to inflict torture, appealed the denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief. Petitioner committed the murders when he was 15 years old. Petitioner contends his counsel performed deficiently by failing to challenge the prosecution’s statements as either improper comments on petitioner's decision not to testify, in violation of Griffin v. California, or improper shifting of the burden of proof to the defense. The court concluded that, because there was no actual prosecutorial error, defense counsel’s decision to rebut the prosecution’s comments directly rather than object at trial or on appeal was adequate, and this strategy did not undermine the reliability of petitioner’s conviction. Petitioner also contends that his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment because it is the "functional equivalent" of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence, and he was a juvenile offender. The court concluded that there is a reasonable argument petitioner’s sentence is constitutional because it actually allows for the possibility of parole. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Demirdjian v. Gipson" on Justia Law
Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Defendant, 16 years old at the time of the offenses, was convicted of felony murder and related charges resulting in a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Miller v. Alabama subsequently held unconstitutional for juvenile offenders mandatory terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The district court refused to appoint a neuropsychological expert under 18 U.S.C. 3006A(e) on resentencing. The court concluded that, under these circumstances, a reasonably competent attorney would have found the services of the requested expert necessary to provide adequate representation at defendant’s resentencing. By precluding defendant from developing this potential mitigating evidence, the district court abused its discretion. The court also concluded that a reasonable attorney would have considered an up-to-date neuropsychological evaluation necessary had defendant been a nonindigent defendant. And because a current evaluation could have provided mitigating evidence in support of a lesser sentence, defendant was sufficiently prejudiced by the failure to appoint a psychological expert before resentencing. Therefore, the court vacated defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court further concluded that defendant has not shown the district court erred by calculating the Guidelines’ recommended base offense level as 43; defendant has not demonstrated that the district court committed prejudicial error when it considered the PSR’s calculation of criminal history points attributed to his juvenile offenses; and, even assuming that defendant’s objection to the district court’s calculation of his criminal history category based on his juvenile offenses was forfeited, as opposed to waived, and assuming the district court committed plain error by attributing criminal history points to three of his juvenile offenses, defendant has not shown prejudice as a result of the error. View "United States v. Pete" on Justia Law
In 2007, a juvenile court adjudicated Mendez guilty of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. If committed by an adult, the offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. In 2012, after Mendez had become an adult, a park ranger found him in possession of a shotgun. Based on the juvenile adjudication, the federal government charged him with violating 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), which makes it unlawful for a person to possess a firearm if heView "United States v. Mendez" on Justia Law
Defendant, a juvenile male, appealed the district court's adjudication of delinquency on six counts of aggravated sexual abuse in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2241(c). The court concluded that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the juvenile delinquency proceedings and that section 2241(c) is not unconstitutionally vague. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court erred applying the means rea element of section 2241(c), denying the Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal as to Counts 3 and 5 because there was insufficient evidence of anal penetration, and admitting the hearsay statements of a victim through the testimony of a social worker under Rule 803(4). The court remanded the portion of the district court's judgment to allow specific consideration of defendant's suspension request where Rule 35(a)'s fourteen-day time limit had expired and there was no record of whether the district court weighed factors bearing on the suspension while it had jurisdiction to do so. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's disposition decision, remanded for consideration of all disposition options, including a suspension of delinquency, and affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Juvenile Male" on Justia Law
Defendant, twelve years old at the time of the offense, appealed his conviction for sexually abusing his six year old cousin. The court concluded that the certification that the government filed in the district court met the requirements of 18 U.S.C. 5032 by certifying that "the juvenile court or the state does not have jurisdiction over the juvenile with respect to the alleged act of juvenile delinquency," even though it was missing a page and did not include a statement of the government's substantial federal interest in this case. Guided by the United States v. Kim factors, considering the totality of the circumstances of defendant's detention, and taking into account defendant's status as a juvenile, the court concluded that a reasonable person in defendant's position would not have felt free to terminate the questioning and leave the police station. Therefore, defendant was "in custody" during his interrogation by the detective. Defendant was never read his Miranda rights and his inculpatory statements during his interrogation by the detective must be suppressed. Defendant's younger brother, who was seven at the time of trial and five at the time of the offense, was competent to testify as a witness. The evidence at trial, including defendant's inculpatory statements, was not insufficient to support the conviction. The court reversed and remanded, however, because the inculpatory statements were obtained in violation of defendant's Miranda rights and should have been suppressed. View "United States v. IMM" on Justia Law
Tribal authorities of the Tohono O'odham nation charged LKAV, age 17, with murder in May 2009. In November 2011, the United States moved to commit LKAV pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 4241 to an adult medical facility for psychiatric treatment. The court held that when the United States charges a juvenile with an act of juvenile delinquency under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031-42, the district court must follow 18 U.S.C. 5037(e) if it committed the juvenile for a study of the juvenile's competency to stand trial. Because the district court in this case instead committed LKAV under 18 U.S.C. 4241(d), the court reversed the judgment. View "United States V. LKAV, Juvenile Male" on Justia Law
Defendant, a juvenile male, was charged with second-degree murder and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Defendant was seventeen years old at the time of the alleged offenses. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's order granting the government's motion to transfer juvenile proceedings for adult prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 5032. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by making findings regarding defendant's intellectual development and psychological maturity; the district court did not abuse its discretion by making a finding about the alleged discrepancy in individualized attention and counseling programs when comparing the adult and juvenile detention systems; and the district court's presumption of guilt for purposes of the transfer decision did not violate defendant's due process rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. JJ, Juvenile Male" on Justia Law
HOS was arrested and indicted for various offenses. He claimed that he was a juvenile when these offenses were committed. HOS subsequently appealed the district court's grant of the U.S. Attorney's request to revoke its prior determination as to HOS's age based on a birth certificate the U.S. Attorney had obtained from the Mexican government that indicated that HOS was 23-years-old at the time of the charged offenses. The district judge thus ordered that the case proceed against HOS as an adult. The court rejected HOS's argument that the government was precluded from re-litigating the issue of his age. On the basis of the record before the court, the court could not conclude that the district judge abused his discretion or that his finding that HOS was an adult was clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order. View "United States v. HOS" on Justia Law
Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder when she was 16 years old for her part in the murder of her boyfriend. Petitioner appealed the district court's dismissal of three claims in her federal habeas petition as untimely under the one-year statute of limitations set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1). Because the court applied the AEDPA statute of limitations on a claim-by-claim basis, and because petitioner's three claims challenging a state administrative agency's order were filed nearly 18 months after the statute of limitations expired, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal.
Three juvenile defendants, each of whom was a member of an Indian Tribe and who pleaded true to a charge of aggravated sexual abuse with children, appealed their conditions of probation or supervision requiring registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16901, et seq. Defendants argued that SORNA's registration requirement contravened the confidentiality provisions of the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031 et seq., and also challenged its constitutionality. The court held that because Congress, in enacting SORNA, intentionally carved out a class of juveniles from the FJDA's confidentiality provisions, and that SORNA's registration requirement was constitutionally sound, the district court's imposition of the sex offender registration conditions was constitutionally sound.