Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the BIA's determination that petitioner's conviction for felony vehicular flight from a pursuing police car while driving against traffic, in violation of California Vehicle Code section 2800.4, is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude that made him removable. The panel applied the two-step process in determining whether California Vehicle Code section 2800.4 is categorically a crime involving moral turpitude by first reviewing the elements of the statute de novo and then by deferring, to some extent, to the BIA's conclusion that a crime involves moral turpitude. The panel concluded that it need not decide the appropriate level of deference because, even affording only minimal deference, the BIA's interpretation was correct. View "Lepe Moran v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The panel held that where, as here, law enforcement officers are asked to assist in the execution of an administrative warrant authorizing the inspection of a private residence, they violate the Fourth Amendment when their "primary purpose" in executing the warrant is to gather evidence in support of a criminal investigation rather than to assist the inspectors. The panel need not address defendant's argument that the warrant itself was invalid under state law nor whether LASD exceeded the scope of the warrant. The panel only held that the LASD's execution was unreasonable and thus the district court properly granted defendant's motion to suppress. View "United States v. Grey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his Nevada convictions for three murders and an attempted murder, as well as his death sentence for one of the murders. The district court issued a certificate of appealability (COA) for petitioner's argument that the procedural default of his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim should be excused in light of Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). The panel affirmed the denial of habeas relief and held that, although counsel's performance was deficient at the second penalty-phase hearing, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by counsel's performance. In this case, petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by the lack of an evidentiary hearing, and his claim remains procedurally defaulted. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the Martinez claim without holding an evidentiary hearing. The panel certified petitioner's claim alleging violation of the rule set out in Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359 (1931), but ultimately concluded that this claim does not entitle petitioner to habeas relief because the Stromberg error was harmless. The panel declined to certify the remaining claims because they do not raise substantial questions of law and the panel was not persuaded that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong. View "Smith v. Baker" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for writ of mandamus filed under the Crime Victims' Rights Act. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount of restitution to which petitioner is entitled. Furthermore, the panel held that the district court's finding that the prior civil settlement reduced the amount of petitioner's loss was supported by the evidence and was neither an abuse of discretion nor legally erroneous. View "Barber v. USDC, San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following questions of state law to the Arizona Supreme Court: 1. Is Arizona's possession of drug paraphernalia statute, A.R.S. 13-3415, divisible as to drug type? 2. Is Arizona's drug possession statute, A.R.S. 13-3408, divisible as to drug type? 3. Put another way, is jury unanimity (or concurrence) required as to which drug or drugs listed in A.R.S. 13-3401(6), (19), (20), or (23) was involved in an offense under either statute? View "Romero-Millan v. Barr" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress after he pleaded guilty to receipt of stolen mail and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his residence and the statements he made to law enforcement on the basis that the search warrant obtained by the Postal Inspection Service relied on evidence that was obtained illegally. The panel declined to address the potential Fourth Amendment privacy interests that may be implicated by the warrantless use of this Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology, and held that defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the historical location data of the Yukon under the facts of this case. The panel found no evidence in the record that Prestige Motors had a policy or practice of allowing lessees to keep cars beyond the rental period and Prestige had made affirmative attempts to repossess the vehicle by activating the GPS unit to locate and disable the vehicle. Therefore, defendant lacked standing to challenge the warrantless search of the database. View "United States v. Yang" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's habeas corpus petition challenging his California conviction and death sentence for murder and other crimes. Petitioner raised two certified claims and two uncertified claims. The panel held that petitioner failed to show that the California Supreme Court's denials of his claims were unreasonable determinations of the facts or contrary to clearly established federal law. In this case, the California Supreme Court reasonably determined that an officer's misstatement during petitioner's interrogation that there was no death penalty in California did not prompt petitioner's confessions. Furthermore, petitioner failed to show that his statements were not knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. Even if petitioner were able to show that trial counsel was ineffective in not fully investigating his abuse as a child or his alleged organic brain injury, the panel held that the state court could reasonably have determined that any shortcoming in trial counsel's investigation was not prejudicial. Finally, the panel granted a certificate of appealability on petitioner's two uncertified claims and held that the state court reasonably rejected the claims that his trial counsel should have impeached the government's case and the prosecutor withheld material, exculpatory evidence. View "Benson v. Chappell" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted in part a petition for review of the BIA's finding that petitioner was removable based on his conviction for possession of visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a person under 16 years of age, in violation of Nevada Revised Statutes (N.R.S.) 200.730. Applying the categorical approach, the panel compared the elements of N.R.S. 200.730 with the applicable definition of "sexual abuse of a minor," which requires proof of three elements. The panel held that N.R.S. 200.730 punishes a broader range of conduct because the Nevada statute does not require proof that the offender participated in sexual conduct with a minor. Therefore, petitioner's conviction did not qualify as sexual abuse of a minor. The panel explained that, with a possession-only offense such as N.R.S. 200.730, the minor depicted in the image is not the direct object of the offender's conduct, which is a necessary predicate for the offense to qualify as sexual abuse of a minor. View "Mero v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion for relief from the district court's denial of his 2009 motion for authorization to interview jurors at his 2003 criminal trial in order to investigate potential juror misconduct. Petitioner argued that the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Peña-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017), changed the law governing requests to interview jurors for evidence of racial bias, and that this change constituted an extraordinary circumstance justifying relief under Rule 60(b)(6). The panel first held that petitioner's motion is not a disguised second or successive section 2255 habeas motion, and the district court had jurisdiction to decide his Rule 60(b)(6) motion. The panel held that a mere development in jurisprudence, as opposed to an unexpected change, does not constitute an extraordinary circumstance for purposes of Rule 60(b)(6). In this case, the panel wrote that, although Peña-Rodriguez established a new exception to Rule 60(b), this change in law left untouched the law governing investigating and interviewing jurors. Furthermore, because Peña-Rodriguez does not override local court rules or compel access to jurors, it is not "clearly irreconcilable" with precedent, Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889, 893 (2003) (en banc), and therefore did not make any change in the law regarding lawyer access to jurors, let alone one so significant that it would constitute "extraordinary circumstances" for purposes of Rule 60(b). View "Mitchell v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated Defendant Bacon's conviction for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to do bodily harm and assault causing serious bodily injury, and remanded for a new trial. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony of a clinical expert psychologist, which would have allowed Bacon to present an insanity defense, because the testimony was relevant to defendant's defense. Furthermore, the error was not harmless and the panel could not tell from the record whether the testimony was reliable. View "United States v. Ray" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law