Findlaw Case Summaries: Criminal Law and Procedure 39

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August 2-6, 2010.

United States Second Circuit, 08/02/2010
US v. Johnson
Defendant’s sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm is affirmed where a violation of Connecticut General Statute section 53a-179b (Rioting at a correctional institution) qualified as a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act.

United States Second Circuit, 08/02/2010
Scott v. Fischer
In an action claiming that defendants deprived plaintiff of liberty without due process of law both by placing her on mandatory post-release supervision without a proper judicial sentence and by failing to take action to remove the supervision before or after she was rearrested for violating the terms thereof, dismissal of the action is affirmed where defendants were entitled to qualified immunity for all actions they took prior to the Second Circuit’s decision in Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2006), and further, plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for any actions the defendants took thereafter. ..

United States Second Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Broxmeyer
Defendant’s convictions for production of child pornography and for transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity are reversed where: 1) the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant persuaded, induced, or enticed the victim to take Photos 1 and 2; and 2) an 18 U.S.C. section 2423(a) conviction cannot lie where the unlawful sexual act occurs before the crossing of state lines, and where there is no evidence of an intent to commit a sexual act when state lines were crossed.

United States Third Circuit, 08/02/2010
Equal Employment Oppotunity Comm’n v. Geo Group, Inc.
In the EEOC’s Title VII suit on behalf of a class of Muslim women employees against a private company that was contracted to run a prison for Delaware County, claiming that defendant violated Title VII’s prohibitions on religious discrimination when it failed to accommodate the class members by providing them an exception to the prison’s dress policy that otherwise precluded them from wearing Muslim head coverings called khimars at work, a grant of defendant’s motion for summary judgment is affirmed as the district court did not err by relying on Webb v. City of Philadelphia, 562 F.3d 256 (3d. Cir. 2009), which held that, notwithstanding the sincere religious beliefs of plaintiff police officer of the need to wear a khimar, that belief was subordinate to the police department’s policy prohibiting the wearing of a khimar because “safety is undoubtedly an interest of the greatest importance.”

United States Third Circuit, 08/02/2010
Reedy v. Evanson
In plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 action against a detective and others, claiming unlawful seizure and unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment and related state law violations arising from a criminal complaint against plaintiff for falsely reporting a crime of sexual assault and robbery while working as a cashier at a convenience store (these were later dropped after a serial rapist was captured and confessed to the crimes), a grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is affirmed in part, vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded where: 1) district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment unlawful seizure claim and her related federal and state law claims, as no reasonably competent officer could have concluded at the time of plaintiff’s arrest that there was probable cause for the arrest; 2) summary judgment on detective’s defense of qualified immunity cannot stand as the availability of the defense mus t be decided after fact finding by the jury to determine whether the facts as recounted by the detective or by plaintiff are more credible; 3) district court erred in granting summary judgment to the detective on plaintiff’s unlawful search claim; 4) district court’s grant of summary judgment as to all claims against the officer and the public safety director are affirmed; and 5) district court’s grant of summary judgment as to plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, against the officer and the safety director is affirmed.

United States Third Circuit, 08/03/2010
Saranchak v. Beard
A partial grant of defendant’s petition for habeas relief from the first degree murder conviction of his grandmother and uncle and a sentence of death is reversed where: 1) the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s rejection of the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel regarding the counsel’s failure seek suppression of certain statements was not an unreasonable application of, or contrary to, clearly established federal law; 2) defendant failed to establish a reasonable probability that, but for the admission of his statements to the state police, the result of the proceeding would have been different; 3) defendant failed to establish a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors in failing to investigate and present a proper diminished capacity defense, he would not have been convicted of first degree murder; and 4) defendant failed to show that he is “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”

United States Fifth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Valle v. Houston
In an action based on an incident in which decedent was shot and killed by Houston police officers during an incident at his family’s home, summary judgment for defendants is affirmed where: 1) although an officer’s decision to order entry into plaintiffs’ home was arguably the “moving force” behind the constitutional violations that resulted in decedent’s death, because his decision was not a decision by a final policymaker of the City, the City could not be liable; and 2) plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence of causation as to the entry of their home. ..

United States Fifth Circuit, 08/03/2010
Spotts v. US
In an action by present and former inmates of the Federal Correctional Complex, United States Penitentiary, in Beaumont, Texas, in connection with the decision made by the Regional Director of the South Central Region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, not to evacuate the Penitentiary in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, the dismissal of the action is affirmed where: 1) plaintiffs did not plead, and never argued to the district court, that the Eighth Amendment precluded the application of the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act; 2) plaintiffs’ contention that the Safe Drinking Water Act imposed nondiscretionary duties that were contravened by the decision not to evacuate lacked merit; and 3) defendants’ decision was the type of policy decision protected by the discretionary function exception and therefore meets the second prong of the Berkovitz test.

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/02/2010
Purvis v. Oest
In a former high school teacher’s suit against a school district’s superintendent and others claiming deprivation of due process and false arrest, arising from a prosecution for allegedly having a sexual relationship with with a 15-year-old student, of which she was acquitted, district court’s denial of defendants’ motion for summary judgment is reversed where: 1) a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the school’s investigation was biased and deprived plaintiff of due process; 2) the superintendent, dean and the principal are entitled to qualified immunity; and 3) the police chief had probable cause to arrest plaintiff.

United States Seventh Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Li
Conviction of defendant for harboring an alien for commercial advantage or private financial gain is affirmed where: 1) a reasonable jury could have concluded that defendant’s inattentiveness reflected his knowledge or reckless disregard of the two aliens’ illegal status; 2) the evidence supports an inference that defendant sought to conceal the aliens’ presence; 3) evidence supported an inference that defendant derived financial advantage from the aliens’ illegal status; 4) defendant’s challenge to the jury instruction regarding the mens rea required to convict for harboring an alien is waived; and 5) given the potential punishment the district court could have assessed, the forfeiture of defendant’s home is not so grossly disproportionate to the gravity of his convictions as to be excessive. .

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/02/2010
US v. Tenerelli
Defendant’s convictions for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and felon in possession of a firearm, are affirmed where: 1) even assuming that defendant was correct that the seized videotapes were not within the scope of the warrant, their admission was harmless; 2) it was reasonable for officers to conclude that defendant was likely to possess methamphetamine at his residence when the search warrant was executed; and 3) there was no flagrant disregard of the limits of the warrant.

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Cook
Defendant’s sentence for engaging in and attempting to engage in sexual contact with the intent to abuse the victim in Indian country is affirmed where the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding defendant’s criminal history category understated his actual criminal history and likelihood of recidivism. .

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/04/2010
US v. Chapman
Defendant’s sentence for receipt of stolen firearms, unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon, and unlawful possession of ammunition as a previously convicted felon is affirmed where a knowing recipient of stolen firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(j), like a felon in possession of stolen firearms, would not necessarily violate the Iowa felony theft statute, because the federal statute did not require value in excess of $1000, and thus defendant’s sentence did not involve double-counting.

United States Eighth Circuit, 08/04/2010
US v. Thomas
Defendant’s conviction and sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm are affirmed where 1) in a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(1), it was well settled that the government need only prove defendant’s status as a convicted felon and knowing possession of the firearm; and 2) defense counsel agreed with the probation officer’s defense of the enhancements recommended by the presentence report.

United States Ninth Circuit, 08/02/2010
US v. Monday
Defendant’s conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. section 1709, which provided for felony penalties for a U.S. Postal Service employee entrusted with mail who “steals, abstracts, or removes from any such letter, package, bag, or mail, any article or thing contained therein . . . .”, is affirmed where the statute, in prohibiting Postal Employees from removing contents from mailed items, contained no specific intent requirement.

United States Ninth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Cheney v. Washington
In a habeas petition regarding petitioner’s conviction for sexual abuse of a minor, claiming that petitioner was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel because his defense counsel failed to object properly at two points during his trial, the denial of the petition is affirmed where: 1) defense counsel could have decided not to object to a detective’s testimony because it led the detective to admit not only that abuse allegations are sometimes baseless, but that his personal views were sometimes a determinative factor in the decision whether to prosecute; and 2) the state court could reasonably conclude that there was no reasonable probability of a different outcome had defense counsel made an immediate objection to the prosecutor’s imprudent remarks.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/02/2010
Braxton v. Zavaras
In an action by Colorado prisoners proceeding pro se, alleging that defendants violated their civil rights during a public strip search at a correctional facility, the dismissal of the action as untimely is affirmed where: 1) the Colorado Supreme Court had not held that the statute of limitations was automatically tolled whenever a person is involved in any administrative review process; and 2) plaintiffs did not diligently pursue their claims following the exhaustion of their administrative remedies.

United States Tenth Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Landeros-Lopez
Defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine is affirmed where, when read in combination with the prosecutor’s statements and the plea colloquy, a presentence report provided a sufficient factual basis for the court to accept defendant’s plea. However, defendant’s sentence is vacated where, by definitively announcing defendant’s sentence before providing him with an opportunity to speak on his own behalf, the district court prematurely adjudged his sentence.

United States Eleventh Circuit, 08/02/2010
US v. Rivera
In receiver’s appeal from an order that removed her as receiver of the forfeited assets of three convicted criminals, the appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction where: 1) if and when the district court ordered the receiver to pay the new receiver a specific amount, then she can appeal that order; and 2) the complaint that the district court damaged the receiver’s professional reputation did not present a justiciable controversy.

United States DC Circuit, 08/03/2010
US v. Proj. on Govt. Oversight
In an action charging a nonprofit and an Interior Department economist under 18 U.S.C. section 209(a), which prohibits giving or receiving any contribution to or supplementation of salary “as compensation for [an individual’s] services as an officer or employee of the executive branch,” judgment for plaintiff is reversed as a defendant’s intent to give or receive compensation for government services is a required element of the offense.

Supreme Court of California, 08/02/2010
People v. Verdugo
Conviction of defendant for first-degree murder and a sentence of death are affirmed over claims of error regarding: 1) trial court’s error in refusing to appoint Keenan counsel; 2) failure to disclose Brady and section 1054.1 material; 3) evidentiary issues; 4) instructional error; 5) trial court’s failure to limit the prosecution’s victim impact evidence; 6) scope of cross examination; 7) alleged Griffin error; 8) timing of defense closing argument; 9) challenges to California’s death penalty scheme; 10) denial of new trial motion; 11) denial of request to discharge retained counsel; 12) cumulative prejudice; and 13) alleged violation of international law.

California Court of Appeal, 08/03/2010
People v. Stanley
In a prosecution of defendant for felony vandalism of a truck, trial court’s order of restitution in the amount of $2,812.94 for repairs is affirmed as the court disagrees with People v. Yanez (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1622, to the extent that Yanez sets out a rigid rule that a trial court could never award more than a vehicle’s market value, and the court agrees with In re Dina V. (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 486, where the statutes implementing Proposition 8 give the trial court a choice between market value and feasible repair cost. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding the victim the cost of repairing the vehicle, even if that amount exceeds the replacement value of the vehicle.

Supreme Court of Delaware, 08/03/2010
Crawford v. Jones
In a wrongful death action based on the death of an individual following a police chase, summary judgment for defendants is reversed where a reasonable juror could conclude that defendant-officer had grossly negligently initiated, terminated, or conducted the pursuit, and also proximately caused the decedent’s death.

Supreme Court of Delaware, 08/03/2010
Stevens v. State of Delaware
Defendant’s robbery conviction is affirmed where: 1) any substantive comments of a third party embedded in an 11 Del. C. section 3507 statement were inadmissible under section 3507 because they are not prior statements of the witness; and 2) defendant’s appellate assertions of plain error disregarded his trial attorney’s initial decision not to move for a mistrial and not to accept the trial judge’s offer of a curative instruction, and counsel’s subsequent failure to object to the later statements by a detective. ..

Supreme Court of Delaware, 08/03/2010
Blake v. State of Delaware
Defendant’s murder conviction is reversed where the Superior Court committed reversible error by admitting the prior statements of five witnesses into evidence under section 3507, because the proper foundational requirements were not established.

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