Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied defendants' 28 U.S.C. 2255 motions challenging the validity of their convictions for carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. The panel held that bank robbery "by force and violence, or by intimidation" is a crime of violence under the force clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The panel reasoned that, because defendants' predicate offense, armed bank robbery, could not be based on conduct that involved less force than unarmed bank robbery requires, armed bank robbery qualifies as a crime of violence under section 924(c) as well. View "United States v. Watson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's imposition of a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1), after defendant pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The panel held that neither of defendant's prior convictions for first-degree robbery under Alabama law nor second-degree robbery under California law was a violent felony under the ACCA. In this case, at least two of defendant's four prior non-drug convictions did not qualify as violent felonies and thus defendant should not have been subject to the ACCA's mandatory sentencing provision. Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Walton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for transporting an illegal alien for financial gain. The panel held that the district court's instruction to the jurors defining "reckless disregard" was incorrect where, even assuming the jury instruction required that defendant be aware of facts from which the inference of the risk at issue could be drawn, it plainly did not require that defendant actually draw the inference. In other words, defendant was subjectively aware of the risk. The panel reasoned that this was not the proper case in which to conduct a harmless error review. The panel also held that the district court improperly admitted the passenger's videotaped deposition, because the government made an insufficient showing that the passenger was "unavailable," where the government's efforts to secure his presence were not reasonable. View "United States v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A California conviction for carjacking under Penal Code section 215(a) does not qualify as a crime of violence. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review of a final order of removal. The panel held that Nieves-Medrano v. Holder, 590 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2010), which held that a conviction for carjacking under section 215 is categorically a crime of violence under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F), cannot stand in light of Johnson v. United States, 559 U.S. 133, 140 (2010), which held that the physical force that a crime of violence entails must be violent force. Because section 215 did not require the use of violent force that Johnson required, the California statute was not a crime of violence. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Solorio-Ruiz v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for importation of methamphetamine, holding that the district court necessarily abused its discretion because it applied the wrong legal standard in excluding the evidence of third-party culpability for failing to meet the "substantial evidence" threshold in Perry v. Rushen, 713 F.2d 1447 (9th Cir. 1983), and Territory of Guam v. Ignacio, 10 F.3d 608 (1983). The panel held that nothing in Perry purported to import California's evidentiary standard, and nothing in Ignacio purported to announce a new rule for the admissibility of third-party culpability evidence under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Because the district court's error was not harmless, the panel remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Urias Espinoza" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for panel rehearing, withdrew a previous opinion, filed a superseding opinion affirming a conviction and sentence arising out of the operation of purported medical-marijuana collective storefronts in California, and denied a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel held that defendant was not entitled to remand for an evidentiary hearing on his state law compliance; the district court erred by giving an overly strong anti-nullification jury instruction, but the error was harmless; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a state search warrant; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for a Franks hearing; the district court did not err by declining to instruct the jury on defendant's joint ownership defense; the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering the government's late-filed objections to the presentence report; and defendant's 211 month sentence was substantively and procedurally reasonable. View "United States v. Kleinman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's 60-month sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and remanded for resentencing. The panel held that defendant's previous conviction for drug conspiracy under Washington state law did not qualify as a controlled substance offense because the Washington drug conspiracy statute was not a categorical match to conspiracy under federal law. Therefore, the district court erred when calculating defendant's Sentencing Guidelines range and the error was not harmless. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for rehearing, filed an amended opinion reversing the denial of habeas relief challenging petitioner's death sentence, and remanded. The panel held that the Arizona Supreme Court denied petitioner his Eighth Amendment right to individualized sentencing by applying an unconstitutional causal nexus test to his mitigating evidence of a troubled childhood and mental health issues. Such error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the sentence. The panel denied habeas relief on petitioner's claim that the Arizona courts failed to consider his history of substance abuse as a nonstatutory mitigating factor. Finally, the panel agreed with the district court that petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was procedurally defaulted because it was fundamentally different from the claim he presented in state court. View "Poyson v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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A trial judge may excuse a juror at any time for any material problem impeding fair deliberations as long as it was not due to the juror's views of the merits of the case. The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence for fraud and conspiracy in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme. The panel held that Juror No. 9 was removed for reasons other than his views on the merits of the case, but rather, because he was physically unwell and could not serve with his fellow jurors. The panel also held that defendant failed to show that the district court committed plain error when it considered evidence for Guidelines-based sentencing purposes which defendant had made no effort to address. View "United States v. Depue" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A proceeding to revoke supervised release is not a criminal case for purposes of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment revoking defendant's supervised release based on his admissions during mandatory sex-offender treatment. The panel held that the district court did not violate defendant's right against self-incrimination because that right extended only to prohibit the use of an admission in a criminal case. View "United States v. Hulen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law