Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing the original opinion and issued a new opinion affirming the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his capital sentence for two first-degree murders. The panel held that petitioner was not entitled to relief on his Eighth Amendment claim against arbitrary and capricious sentencing, because he could not show that the jury's consideration of the facts that he poisoned a witness's dogs and threatened her property had a substantial and injurious effect on the jury's decision to impose the death penalty. The panel also held that petitioner has not presented clear and convincing evidence to rebut the California Supreme Court's finding that he validly waived his state habeas exhaustion petition. View "Kirkpatrick v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting petitioner habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, based on his challenge to the trial court's grant of a mistrial. In this case, after the jury reached a verdict but before the verdict was announced, the jurors expressed concern for their safety because of a scary-looking man in the courtroom. The panel held that the district court correctly held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine was inapplicable in section 2241 petitions. On the merits, the panel held that the district court did not err in concluding that retrying defendant would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, because the trial court erred in concluding that there was manifest necessity for a mistrial. Even under a more deferential standard, the trial court's manifest necessity determination was erroneous because the trial court failed to provide any meaningful consideration of alternatives to mistrial. View "Gouveia v. Espinda" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction and sentence for armed bank robbery, holding that his inadvertent placement of a pocket knife on the bank's counter while pulling a plastic bag out of his pocket did not put in jeopardy the life of any person by the use of a dangerous weapon. The panel held that the district court committed plain error in accepting defendant's guilty plea without a sufficient factual basis, and the error affected defendant's substantial rights where it was reasonably probable that he would not have pleaded guilty but for the error. View "United States v. Bain" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A guilty plea made in exchange for leniency to a third party is involuntarily made if the government lacked probable cause to prosecute the third party at the time of the guilty plea. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 255 motion to vacate defendant's guilty plea and set aside his misdemeanor conviction stemming from the operation of an unlawful sports betting operation. The panel held that the Government had probable cause to prosecute defendant's son at the time of defendant's plea, and therefore rejected defendant's claim that defendant's guilty plea was involuntary because it was improperly conditioned on leniency for the son. The panel also rejected defendant's claim of government misconduct and held that defendant was aware of the Government's misconduct at the time of his plea but nonetheless pleaded guilty. View "United States v. Seng Chen Yong" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for knowingly possessing a firearm as a felon. Defendant argued that, because firearms manufactured in or before 1898 do not qualify as "firearms" under 18 U.S.C. 922, the district court erred by refusing to instruct the jury that, to convict, they had to find that defendant knew that his firearm was manufactured after 1898. The panel held that United States v. Aguilera-Rios, 769 F.3d 626 (9th Cir. 2014), does not override the line of cases holding that a firearm's antique status is an affirmative defense in a criminal prosecution. Furthermore, Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600 (1994), which required the government to prove defendant's knowledge of every characteristic of his shotgun that made it incriminating, including age, was not helpful to defendant in this case. Therefore, the panel held that the district court correctly declined to give defendant's proposed jury instruction where he failed to dispute the government's evidence that his gun could not have been manufactured before 1915 and he offered evidence that he reasonably believed that the gun was manufactured before 1899. Likewise, the panel also rejected defendant's sufficiency of the evidence argument. View "United States v. Benamor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order denying respondent's motion to depublish and granting the motion to amend the prior opinion, as well as an amended opinion. In the amended opinion, the panel held that petitioner's conviction under Oregon Statutes section 164.395 for robbery in the third degree is not categorically a crime involving moral turpitude. The panel held that the minimal force required for conviction was insufficient and the government waived the issue of divisibility. Therefore, petitioner was not statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal and the panel affirmed the petition for review in part. However, the panel denied the petition for review as to the withholding of removal claim, holding that petitioner's proposed particular social group – individuals returning to Mexico who are believed to be wealthy – was overbroad. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Aguirre Barbosa v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence. In this case, a police officer spotted defendant, a black man, who was on foot, and then activated their lights and pursued him by car. The officers did not order or otherwise signal to defendant to stop and he reacted by running for about a block before the officers stopped him at gunpoint. The panel held that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot before stopping and frisking defendant where there was no reliable tip, no reported criminal activity, no threat of harm, no suggestion that the area was known for high crime or narcotics, no command to stop, and no requirement to even speak with the police. The panel noted that it was particularly hesitant to allow flight to carry the day in authorizing a stop. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas corpus relief where petitioner challenged an order certifying him as extraditable to the Czech Republic in order for him to serve a sentence for a Czech conviction for attempted extortion. The panel agreed with the Sixth Circuit and nearly every district court that has considered the applicability of 18 U.S.C. 3196 that, in the absence of a treaty authorization or prohibition, the statute confers discretion on the U.S. Department of State to seek extradition of U.S. citizens. The panel also agreed with the district court that petitioner's Czech conviction for attempted extortion qualifies as an extraditable offense and thus the district court properly denied habeas relief. View "United States v. Knotek" on Justia Law

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Defendant challenged his life sentence imposed by the district court after it concluded he had two prior felony drug offenses under 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's life sentence and held that his prior California Penal Code section 4573.6 conviction for inmate drug possession did not qualify as a predicate offense triggering a mandatory term of life imprisonment under section 841(b)(1)(A), because the statute was overbroad, criminalizing controlled substances under California law that are not regulated under federal law. The panel also held that the statute was indivisible and could not be a categorical felony drug offense. Finally, the panel held that the district court should be permitted to consider defendant's submissions and impose a new sentence thereafter. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two counts of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in violation of Oregon Revised Statutes 811.540(1), as assimilated by 18 U.S.C. 13, the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA), and 18 U.S.C. 1152, the Indian Country Crimes Act (ICCA). Defendant argued that the federal government lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him for his violation of state law in Indian country because the ACA does not apply to Indian country. The panel affirmed the conviction and held that the ACA applies to Indian country, based on the panel's own precedent and through the operation of 18 U.S.C. 7 and 1152. Furthermore, neither the ICCA nor the Major Crimes Act precluded the federal government from exercising its jurisdiction to prosecute defendant for his violations of section 811.540(1) under the ACA. Accordingly, the court upheld the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law