Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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An inmate serving a federal sentence remains under "the custody of the Attorney General" as per 18 U.S.C. 751(a) when he is held at a state-run institution pursuant to the writ. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a pre-plea motion to dismiss an indictment where defendant pleaded guilty to attempted escape. The panel held that defendant's guilty plea did not preclude them from considering the merits of his appeal; the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to dismiss on the ground that he was in federal custody as a matter of law pursuant to section 751(a); and the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to dismiss on prosecutorial vindictiveness grounds. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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28 U.S.C. 636(c)(1) requires the consent of all plaintiffs and defendants named in the complaint—irrespective of service of process—before jurisdiction may vest in a magistrate judge to hear and decide a civil case that a district court would otherwise hear. The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded the magistrate judge's dismissal of a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit brought by a civil detainee, because consent was not obtained from defendants in this case. Therefore, the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction to dismiss the complaint. View "Williams v. King" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for reentry by a previously-deported alien without the express consent of the Attorney General to reapply for admission and a revocation of supervised release from a prior illegal reentry conviction. The panel held that there was substantial evidence to support defendant's conviction where the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that defendant was in the United States without the consent of the Attorney General or the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The panel also held that the district court properly denied defendant's Batson challenge where the totality of the circumstances did not raise an inference that the government's challenges were racially motivated, defendant failed to make a prima facie case of discrimination, and the district court did not commit structural error. View "United States v. Hernandez-Quintania" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal where defendant was convicted of obstruction of justice. The basis for defendant's prosecution was his failure to include material information about the use of force upon an inmate in several reports documenting the encounter with the inmate. The panel reviewed the case de novo and applied the federal nexus standard established in Fowler v. United States, 563 U.S. 668 (2011), and held that there was insufficient evidence for any rational juror to find that it was reasonably likely that defendant's reports would have reached federal officers. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for selling and possessing with the intent to sell over 446 grams of ethylone. The panel held that the DEA properly exercised its limited powers as defined by Congress to temporarily list butylone and its isomers, including ethylone; defendant had public notice that distributing Ecstasy in the form of ethylone could result in criminal sanctions; the rule of lenity did not apply in defendant's case; the DEA's decision to temporarily schedule ethylone was authorized pursuant to its temporary scheduling power and a clear directive from Congress; and defendant's plea agreement clearly and unambiguously waived his right to appeal the very sentencing issue he raised. Accordingly, the court dismissed defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment, affirmed the conviction, and dismissed defendant's challenge to his sentence. View "United States v. Kelly" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The "good faith belief" defense for a prosecution under 16 U.S.C. 1540 is governed by a subjective, rather than an objective, standard, and is satisfied when a defendant actually, even if unreasonably, believes his actions are necessary to protect himself or others from perceived danger from a grizzly bear. The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for killing three grizzly bears in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court held that defendant was not entitled to a jury trial; the magistrate judge, who served as the trier of fact at trial, misconceived the self-defense element of the offense, and that error was not harmless; likewise, the district court applied an objective test and the error was not harmless; and defendant was not entitled to a jury trial on remand. View "United States v. Wallen" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The panel held that there were a number of trial errors and, considering that evidence of guilt was not overwhelming, their cumulative effect prejudiced defendant. The trial errors included the following: (1) improper witness testimony that bolstered the victim's credibility and offered opinion on the credibility of sex abuse allegations in general; (2) prejudicial propensity evidence in the form of defendant's ex-wife's testimony regarding a child-incest fantasy defendant allegedly had in 2003; and (3) prosecutorial misconduct, namely: commenting on defendant's decision not to testify, witness vouching, and misstating the evidence in summation. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a new trial. View "United States v. Preston" 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 relief challenging petitioner's conviction and death sentence for four counts of first degree murder. The panel held that, because petitioner failed to prove that any of the eyewitnesses provided material, false testimony or that the prosecution knew they committed perjury, the state court's rejection of petitioner's Mooney-Napue claims relating to the eyewitnesses was neither contrary to clearly established federal law nor objectively unreasonable; the state court reasonably denied petitioner's claim that certain testimony from non-eyewitnesses was false; the state court reasonably denied petitioner's claims under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); the state court reasonably denied petitioner's claims relating to the exposure of two eyewitnesses; and the court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas petition with respect to the Mesarosh claim, lineup card claim, Massiah claim, ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and cumulative error claim. View "Sanders v. Cullen" on Justia Law

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A state court's alteration of the number of presentence credits to which a prisoner was entitled under California law constitutes a new, intervening judgment under Wentzell v. Neven, 674 F.3d 1124, 1125 (9th Cir. 2012). The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a California state prisoner's habeas corpus petition and remanded for further proceedings. In this case, the amendment to the judgment was clearly a new judgment under Magwood v. Patterson, 561 U.S. 320, 341–42 (2010). The panel explained, so too, with the amendment to petitioner's presentence credits, and thus to his sentence. View "Gonzalez v. Sherman" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In this case, the district court treated defendant's prior conviction under Washington's second-degree assault statute, Revised Code of Washington section 9A.36.021, as a crime of violence under the Sentencing Guidelines. State court documents from the prior conviction demonstrated that defendant had pleaded guilty to violating section 9A.36.021(1)(c), assault with a deadly weapon. The panel held that this case was controlled by its recent decision in United States v. Robinson, 869 F.3d 933 (9th Cir. 2017), in which the panel held that section 9A.36.021 is not a crime of violence under the Sentencing Guidelines. The panel explained that section 9A.36.021 criminalizes conduct that does not meet the generic federal definition of crime of violence and was not divisible. The panel concluded that United States v. Jennen, 596 F.3d 594 (9th Cir. 2010), was overruled. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Slade" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law