Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for illegal reentry. At sentencing, the district court applied an eight-level enhancement under USSG 2L1.2(b)(2)(B) of the 2016 United States Sentencing Guidelines, which was applicable if, before the defendant was ordered deported or ordered removed from the United States for the first time, the defendant sustained a conviction for a felony offense (other than an illegal reentry offense) for which the sentence imposed was two years or more. In this case, although defendant sustained a felony conviction for lewd conduct with a child before he was first ordered deported, he was sentenced to only one year of incarceration before his first deportation order; the sentence was increased to three years of incarceration after he returned to the United States. Therefore, the panel held that defendant's conviction did not qualify for the enhancement under 2L1.2(b)(2)(B). View "United States v. Hernandez Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for storage of hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 6928(d)(2)(A), holding that the district court properly refused to allow evidence of defendant's diminished capacity because the crime was one of general intent. The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2Q1.2(b)(3) because the cleanup of the property "required a substantial expenditure" given the magnitude of the hazardous materials in defendant's yard and the cost of $498,562 to clean them up. View "United States v. Spatig" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief in petitioner's death penalty case where he was convicted of kidnapping and first degree murder. The panel rejected petitioner's argument that the Arizona Supreme Court's adjudication of his Eighth Amendment claim was contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court; law enforcement misconduct claim; and two ineffective assistance of counsel claims regarding the failure to develop information regarding the victim's bones and the failure to present evidence from mental health experts. View "Atwood v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief for petitioner in this death penalty case. The panel held that the California Supreme Court reasonably concluded that petitioner received adequate notice of the attempted rape special circumstance and petitioner's constitutional rights were not violated when the prosecutor presented the special circumstance to the jury. In this case, the amended information specifically alleged a special circumstance premised on Cal. Penal Code 190.2(a)(17), which encompassed attempted rape. Furthermore, defense counsel also acknowledged that petitioner received adequate notice of the special circumstance and that petitioner was not prejudiced by the prosecution's arguments premised on attempted rape. After expanding the certificate of appealability to include previously uncertified claims, the panel concluded that, upon further consideration, these claims lacked merit. View "Cain v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to seal all documents related to, or disclosing the existence of, a USSG 5K1.1 motion to reduce his sentence by five levels based on his substantial assistance in the prosecution of other offenders involved in an international drug cartel. The panel held that the circumstances in this case required the district court to seal all documents revealing defendant's cooperation and to strike references to section 5K1.1 in the docket entry text. The panel next considered the report and recommendations from the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management of the Judicial Conference of the United States concerning the protection of ongoing government investigations, cooperators, and their families. The court held that a sealed supplement in all dockets would prevent the fact of cooperation from becoming immediately apparent and also deter the illicit use of court documents to harm cooperators. View "United States v. Doe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial on the basis of improper contact with the jury. The panel held that defendant failed to carry his burden to offer any credible evidence to establish that his ex-girlfriend had said nasty things about him to the jurors at trial. The district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to recall the jury for live questioning, by recusing itself under 28 U.S.C. 455(a) and (b), and by excluding defendant from pre-hearing telephonic conferences. Finally, defendant forfeited any right to challenge the destruction of surveillance videos and, even without forfeiture, his claim failed because he failed to allege bad faith. View "United States v. McChesney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's habeas petition as time-barred. In this case, the state trial court entered a second Amended Judgment reinstating petitioner's murder and attempted murder convictions after the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the state trial court's amended judgment overturning and vacating the convictions. The panel held that petitioner's habeas petition was timely filed because "the judgment" under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1) can only refer to the state judgment pursuant to which the petitioner was being held because that was the only judgment identified in the statute-of-limitations provision. Therefore, the statute of limitations must run from the judgment pursuant to which the petitioner was being held. In this case, the Second Amended Judgment started a new one-year statute of limitations, and thus the petition was timely. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant Barragan, Franco, and Fernandez, and Guitierrez's conviction for conspiracy in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), and Barragan's conviction of drug crimes. The panel affirmed Barragan, Franco, and Fernandez's sentences, but vacated Guitierrez's sentence. In this case, the government conceded, and the panel agreed, that the district court erred in classifying Gutierrez as a career offender because his conviction in this case was not for a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing of Gutierrez on an open record. View "United States v. Barragan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order denying defendant's motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2). Although the Government agreed that defendant was eligible for a sentence reduction, it argued that the appeal was moot because defendant had been released from federal prison. The panel held that the appeal was not moot and that USSG 1.10(b)(2)(B) allows a court to consider a number of departures when calculating a reduction in sentence where the defendant has provided substantial assistance. The panel also held that defendant was entitled to the benefit of the rule of lenity because the Guideline was ambiguous. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court. View "United States v. D.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress contraband seized during a warrantless search of defendant's truck. The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, there was probable cause to believe that contraband would be found in defendant's truck and thus the search was permissible under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. In this case, defendant was associating with a known drug dealer, defendant had been introduced to the dealer by one of the dealer's drug dealing associates, and law enforcement agents knew that the associate and dealer had previously engaged in three illegal drug transactions and that the associate had assisted the dealer in collecting a drug debt. View "United States v. Del Mundo Faagai" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law