Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
Plaintiff, an Arizona state prisoner, filed suit pro se in state court that was subsequently removed by defendant to federal court. The district court dismissed the suit as frivolous and denied pending motions without separately considering plaintiff's motion seeking appointment of a representative or guardian ad litem (GAL) to protect his interests. The Ninth Circuit agreed that the suit was frivolous but ordered a limited remand to evaluate plaintiff's competence and to consider the appointment of a GAL. The panel agreed with the district court's conclusion on remand that it was not required to evaluate plaintiff's competence because he had no interest in this case that could have been protected by appointment of a GAL or issuance of another order under Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2). Because plaintiff had incurred at least three strikes from prior cases, he was already subject to the limitations imposed under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g) and could not be adversely impacted by whatever happened in this case. View "Harris v. Mangum" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief and held that petitioner's claim was barred by her failure to exhaust available state court remedies, and was untimely under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). Even assuming that futility persists as a potential exception to AEDPA's exhaustion requirement, it did not excuse petitioner's failure to exhaust her state court remedies in this instance. Furthermore, the fact that petitioner's claim implicates delay in California's post-conviction process did not excuse her failure to exhaust her present claim. The panel held that neither relation back nor the emergence of new facts rendered petitioner's claim timely. View "Alfaro v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), did not impliedly abrogate the analytical approach and conclusion in United States v. Becerril-Lopez, 541 F.3d 881 (9th Cir. 2008). The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's 57 month sentence after the district court applied a 16-level enhancement based on the ground that defendant's prior conviction for robbery under California Penal Code 211 was categorically a crime of violence. The panel held that, even assuming the district court's failure to accept defendant's guilty plea expressly was error, it provided no ground for reversing his conviction or sentence. The panel also held that the district court properly relied on Becerril-Lopez to impose a 16-level sentencing enhancement in this case. View "United States v. Chavez-Cuevas" on Justia Law

by
A petitioner is entitled to use the full one-year statute-of-limitations period for the filing of his state and federal habeas petitions and he need not anticipate the occurrence of circumstances that would otherwise deprive him of the full 365 days that Congress afforded him for the preparation and filing of his petitions. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing the petition for habeas relief in this case and remanded for further proceedings. The panel held that it was improper for the district court to fault the petitioner for filing his state petition for postconviction relief late in the statute-of-limitations period in reliance on his having a full year to file both his state and federal petitions, as promised by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. 2244. It was obvious in this instance that petitioner was diligent after the extraordinary circumstance had ended. Therefore, petitioner was entitled to equitable tolling from the time he requested his prison account certificate until he received that certification. View "Grant v. Swarthout" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief, in which plaintiff sought a custody redetermination as he awaits the outcome of administrative proceedings to determine whether he has a reasonable fear of returning to his native country of El Salvador. The panel held that, because plaintiff's reinstated removal order remains administratively final, he was detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1231(a); section 1226(a) has no application in this case; and thus plaintiff was not entitled to a bond hearing. View "Padilla-Ramirez v. Bible" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of defendants' motions for sentence reductions under United States Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 782 and 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2). The panel held that USSG 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) does not impermissibly conflict with 28 U.S.C. 991(b) and defendants have not shown that section 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) violates equal protection or due process. Under section 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), defendants who originally had lower sentences may be awarded the same sentences in section 3582(c)(2) proceedings as offenders who originally had higher sentences. Sentences that were initially tailored to avoid unwarranted disparities and to account for individualized circumstances will now converge at the low end of the amended guideline range. The panel explained that this anomalous result did not create an irreconcilable conflict with section 991(b). Furthermore, while section 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) will sometimes produce unequal and arguably unfair results, defendants have not shown that it fails rational basis review. As to due process, defendants' failure to receive a benefit from Amendment 782 was not a result of a retroactive deprivation of a pre-existing benefit. Rather, it was the result of a prospective grant of a limited benefit. View "United States v. Padilla-Diaz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress his confession, holding that the booking exception can apply to questioning even after a defendant has invoked his right to counsel. In this case, the booking exception applied to the questioning of defendant where the questions asked were biographical questions and were not reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response. View "United States v. Zapien" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Petitioner, convicted of first degree murder, sought habeas relief, raising an instructional error claim regarding California Jury Instruction Criminal 2.15, which allowed the jury to infer guilt of murder from evidence that defendants were in possession of recently stolen property plus slight corroborating evidence. Petitioner quit pursuing his petition because he believed that he "co-submitted" another habeas petition with his codefendant. The codefendant was granted habeas relief. The district court subsequently granted petitioner's motion to reopen his original habeas proceedings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) and granted petitioner habeas relief. The Ninth Circuit affirmed and held that the 60(b) motion was not inconsistent with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's (AEDPA) bar on second or successive petitions, AEDPA's statute of limitations, or AEDPA's exhaustion requirement; the district court did not err in reviewing petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion and it did not abuse its discretion in reopening the case under Rule 60(b)(6); and habeas relief was warranted. View "Hall v. Haws" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its memorandum disposition filed December 14, 2016, denied a petition for rehearing en banc as moot, and filed this opinion reversing defendant's conviction for illegal reentry. After defendant was convicted of conspiracy to export defense articles without a license and was removed from the United States, he returned and was convicted of illegal reentry. The panel held that defendant was not originally removable as charged, and so could not be convicted of illegal reentry. In this case, because the statute was overbroad and indivisible, defendant's conviction under 22 U.S.C. 2778 could not serve as a proper predicate for removal—either as an aggravated felony or a firearms offense. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the indictment. View "United States v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of second degree murder. Petitioner claimed that there was improper outside influence on the jury. The en banc court held that the state appellate court's decision was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law in Mattox v. United States, 146 U.S. 140, 149, and Remmer v. United States, 347 U.S. 227, 229. In denying relief because petitioner's evidence did not prove prejudice, the state court acted contrary to Mattox and Remmer; it was error to rely on the very same statement from Juror 10's declaration both to raise the presumption of prejudice and to rebut it; and the state court denied petitioner a hearing on prejudice under the wrong legal standard. Accordingly, the en banc court remanded with instructions to hold a hearing to determine the circumstances of Juror 10's misconduct, the impact on the jury, and whether it was prejudicial. View "Godoy v. Spearman" on Justia Law