Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for lying to a grand jury. Although the verdict form was clearly erroneous, the error was harmless. In this case, the verdict form indicated that the jury would have to find the defendant not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The panel reasoned that the jury instructions taken as a whole, read in conjunction with the verdict form, clearly outlined the burdens of proof and the reasonable doubt standard. View "United States v. Espino" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he was convicted of two counts of possession of child pornography. The panel held that neither of defendant's prior California convictions constitute offenses "relating to" child pornography under 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(2), which imposes a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence. The panel held that because the terms "child pornography" and "sexually explicit conduct," are explicitly defined in chapter 110, the statutory text favored the narrower reading of "related to." Therefore, the panel did not depart from the usual, elements-based, categorical approach to determine whether defendant's prior state statutes of conviction trigger the federal mandatory minimum provision in 2252(b)(2) for individuals with prior offenses "relating to" child pornography. Under the categorical approach, the panel held that both California Penal Code 311.11 and 311.3 are overbroad compared to the federal statute and indivisible. View "United States v. Reinhart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and amended its April 6, 2018, opinion granting the petition for review. In the amended opinion, the panel granted the petition for review of the published decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals, Matter of G-G-S-, 26 I. & N. Dec. 339 (BIA 2014), which concluded that petitioner was statutorily ineligible for withholding of removal because he was convicted of a "particularly serious crime" under 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(B), and vacated and remanded. View "Gomez-Sanchez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to assault resulting in serious bodily injury. The panel held that the district court properly applied a sentencing enhancement for a dangerous weapon used during the commission of the offense under USSG 2A2.2(b)(2)(B). In this case, defendant's tennis shoes qualified as dangerous weapons when he used them to kick and stomp the victim’s head. However, the district court erred in applying an enhancement for an assault that was motivated by a payment or offer of money or thing of value under USSG 2A2.2(b)(5). The panel found that no evidence suggesting that defendant had been hired by someone to assault the victim or that he had been paid anything of value. View "United States v. Swallow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's decision denying petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. The panel held that petitioner was ineligible for relief because he was convicted of "Assault of a Child in the Third Degree – Criminal Negligence and Substantial Pain – With Sexual Motivation." The court held that petitioner's conviction was a categorical match for sexual abuse of a minor, which was an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(A). The panel reasoned that it was unnecessary to decide whether to look at state law or the line of Supreme Court precedent beginning with Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), to determine what elements were part of the offense that petitioner had been convicted of, because the sexual motivation allegation constituted an element under either approach. View "Quintero-Cisneros v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The panel held that defendant's prior conviction for assault with a deadly weapon under Nevada Revised Statutes 200.471 categorically qualified as a crime of violence under the elements clause of USSG 4B1.2(a) because the statute required proof that the defendant placed the victim in fear of bodily harm and thus necessarily entailed the use or threatened use of violent physical force against the person of another. However, defendant's prior convictions for robbery and coercion did not constitute a "crime of violence" because, under the categorical approach, they were not covered by the Guidelines' definition of the term. Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Edling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief where petitioner contended that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney held deeply racist beliefs about African Americans in general and him in particular. The panel rejected petitioner's claim in light of Mayfield v. Woodford, 270 F.3d 915 (9th Cir. 2001) (en banc), where petitioner conceded that he was unaware of his attorney's racism until years after his conviction was final and failed to identify any acts or omissions by his attorney that fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. View "Ellis v. Harrison" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified three questions of criminal law to the Nevada Supreme Court: 1. Is Nev. Rev. Stat 453.337 divisible as to the controlled substance requirement? 2. Does the decision in Sheriff v. Luqman, 697 P.2d 107 (Nev. 1985), conclude that the existence of a controlled substance is a "fact" rather than an "element" of section 453.337, rendering the statute indivisible? If so, can this conclusion be reconciled with Muller v. Sheriff, 572 P.2d 1245 (Nev. 1977)? 3. Does the decision in Muller conclude that offenses under section 453.337 comprise "distinct offenses requiring separate and different proof," rendering the statute divisible as to the controlled substance requirement? If so, can this be reconciled with Luqman? View "United States v. Figueroa-Beltran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed as moot defendant's appeal from a revocation of supervised release. In this case, the Bureau of Prisons had unconditionally released defendant from custody, and his sentence was complete. The panel held that defendant has fully completed the sentence imposed for his revocation of supervised release and has identified only speculative and hypothetical collateral consequences flowing from the charge underlying his revocation. The panel rejected defendant's claim that he faced collateral consequences because he could be required to register as a sex offender and this could affect his ability to visit his children. View "United States v. King" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action brought by five prisoners who were severely injured during cell extractions in two high security units. The panel held that the district court lacked jurisdiction to proceed to trial during the pendency of an interlocutory appeal from a prior qualified immunity ruling, but the error was harmless; in regard to the exhaustion of administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the district court did not clearly err in finding that a reasonable fear of retaliation made the grievance system effectively unavailable for plaintiffs because they reasonably believed that they would suffer additional physical force if they complained; the district court did not err by denying defendants' Rule 50(b) motion based on qualified immunity where there was abundant evidence presented to the jury that defendants inflicted severe injuries on plaintiffs while they were not resisting, and even while they were unconscious; and the panel rejected claims under state law as well as claims of Monell liability, juror bias, punitive damages, and trial errors. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's attorney's fee award of $5,378,174.66. View "Rodriguez v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law