Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order denying Christopher Sherrod's application for authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. The panel joined its sister circuits in holding that an 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(2) sentence reduction does not qualify as a new, intervening judgment. Therefore, Sherrod must obtain authorization from this court to proceed on a second or successive section 2255 motion. In this case, Sherrod has failed to make a prima facie showing under section 2255(h) of newly discovered evidence or a new rule of constitutional law. Therefore, the panel denied his application. View "Sherrod v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of a motion to suppress evidence from a stop of a tractor-trailer driven by defendant. The panel held that it did not matter that a Nevada administrative scheme that allowed law enforcement officers to make stops of commercial vehicles and conduct limited inspections without reasonable suspicion was valid on its face, because the objective evidence established beyond doubt that this stop was a pretext for a stop to investigate information of suspected criminal activity short of that necessary to give rise to reasonable suspicion. The panel explained that the consent to search that was obtained after defendant had been detained for approximately an hour was the fruit of the unlawful stop. The evidence found pursuant to the consent search was also fruit of the unlawful stop. View "United States v. Orozco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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If the government seeks to shackle a defendant, it must first justify the infringement with specific security needs as to that particular defendant. Before a presumptively innocent defendant may be shackled, the court must make an individualized decision that a compelling government purpose would be served and that shackles are the least restrictive means for maintaining security and order in the courtroom. The Ninth Circuit construed defendants' appeal as petitions for writs of mandamus under its supervisory authority and found that it had jurisdiction to consider them. The en banc court held that there was still a live controversy over the shackling policy and the case was not moot because of the capable-of-repetition-yet-evading-review exception to mootness. The en banc court clarified the right to be free from shackles and held that it applies whether the proceeding is pretrial, trial, or sentencing, with a jury or without. Although the en banc court held that the policy was unconstitutional, the court withheld the issuance of a formal writ of mandamus. View "United States v. Sanchez-Gomez" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit joined the First, Third, Fifth, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits in holding that a victim may not directly appeal the restitution component of a criminal defendant's sentence under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A. In this case, defendants were convicted of charges related to their involvement in a scheme to receive kickbacks based on overpayments made by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. The district court ordered defendants to pay restitution to the Tribe. The Tribe subsequently challenged the "direct loss" and the "other fees" amount of the restitution order. The panel held that the Tribe had Article III standing to appeal an award under the MVRA, but that neither the MVRA nor the Due Process Clause confers a right on the Tribe to challenge restitution awards except as provided in 18 U.S.C. 3771(d)(3). Accordingly, the panel dismissed the appeal. View "United States v. Kovall" on Justia Law

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Section 1915A of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. 1915A, applies only to claims brought by individuals incarcerated at the time they file their complaints. Plaintiff, a former prisoner, filed suit against defendants, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment and various state laws for injuries he suffered, and the medical treatment he received, after he was struck by shotgun pellets that officers fired. The district court dismissed the complaint. In this case, plaintiff was not incarcerated at the time he filed the complaint and thus should not have been subjected to Section 1915A screening. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. View "Olivas v. Nevada" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a death row inmate, appealed the dismissal of his claims that the ADC policy and practice of inspecting inmates' outgoing legal mail violates his Sixth and First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit reversed and held that ADC's current inspection policy does not satisfy the standard articulated in Nordstrom v. Ryan, 762 F.3d 903, 906 (9th Cir. 2014) (Nordstrom I). The panel explained that the standard was not satisfied because the policy calls for page-by-page content review of inmates' confidential outgoing legal mail. The policy also does not satisfy the four-part test identified in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89–91 (1987), because ADC did not produce evidence of a threat to prison security sufficient to justify its policy, and because feasible, readily available alternatives were apparent. View "Nordstrom v. Ryan" on Justia Law

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The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the deliberate fabrication of evidence by a state official; deliberate fabrication can be established by circumstantial evidence; deliberate fabrication can be shown by direct evidence; and, in cases involving direct evidence, the investigator's knowledge or reason to know of the plaintiff's innocence need not be proved. In this case, plaintiff introduced direct evidence of deliberate fabrication, specifically, evidence that Detective Sharon Krause deliberately mischaracterized witnesses' statements in her investigative reports. A jury found for plaintiff and against defendants, but the district court granted judgment as a matter of law to defendants based on the ground that plaintiff had failed to introduce evidence that Krause knew or should have known of plaintiff's innocence. The Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court misunderstood the court's precedent. Because plaintiff introduced direct evidence of deliberate fabrication, he did not have to prove that Krause knew or should have known that he was innocent. Furthermore, defendants' other challenges to the jury's verdict failed. View "Spencer v. Krause" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241, contending that a congressional appropriations rider prohibits the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from using federal funds to incarcerate him and seeking release from custody to remedy the wrongful expenditure. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of habeas relief, holding that petitioner voluntarily waived his right to bring this challenge through the collateral-attack waiver provision of his plea agreement. View "Davies v. Benov" on Justia Law

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To secure a conviction for misprision of felony under 18 U.S.C. 4, the government must prove not only that the defendant knew the principal engaged in conduct that satisfies the essential elements of the underlying felony, but also that the defendant knew the conduct was a felony. In this case, defendant was convicted of misprision of felony based on her acts of concealing and failing to notify authorities of her business partner's submission of false statements to the USDA in connection with a federal grant application. The Ninth Circuit held that sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that defendant had the requisite knowledge that her business partner's crime was punishable by more than a year in custody. View "United States v. Olson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of wire fraud, mail fraud, false declaration before a court, escape, and contempt. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a new trial where defendant showed a lack of diligence by waiting to obtain the new evidence at issue; there was sufficient evidence to sustain defendant's mail fraud, wire fraud, and false declaration convictions; defendant was not deprived of a fair trial because prison officials disorganized his legal materials during trial when they moved him to a different location and because two jurors gave untruthful responses about their criminal history during voir dire; defendant's right to a fair trial was not violated where, under Faretta v. California, a trial court is permitted, but not required, to terminate an incorrigible pro se defendant's self-representation; the district court did not deny defendant a fair trial by allowing him to represent himself for the duration of the proceeding; and the district court did not err in denying defendant a competency hearing. View "United States v. Brugnara" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law