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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner after he was convicted of the capital murder of James Byrd and sentenced to death. Byrd's dismembered body was found by Jasper police officers in front of a church where it had been dragged by a truck. The court held that petitioner's ineffective assistance of trial counsel (IATC) claim lacked merit, even when reviewed de novo with petitioner's new evidence and ignoring the procedural bar. In this case counsel acted reasonably in handling the DNA evidence, the size 10 sandal evidence, the note to a coconspirator, and the State's evidence of petitioner's racial motive. The court rejected petitioner's remaining IATC claims and held that counsel maximized petitioner's chances of acquittal. Furthermore, even if counsel's performance was unreasonable, petitioner failed to establish prejudice under Strickland v. Washington. View "King v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner after he was convicted of the capital murder of James Byrd and sentenced to death. Byrd's dismembered body was found by Jasper police officers in front of a church where it had been dragged by a truck. The court held that petitioner's ineffective assistance of trial counsel (IATC) claim lacked merit, even when reviewed de novo with petitioner's new evidence and ignoring the procedural bar. In this case counsel acted reasonably in handling the DNA evidence, the size 10 sandal evidence, the note to a coconspirator, and the State's evidence of petitioner's racial motive. The court rejected petitioner's remaining IATC claims and held that counsel maximized petitioner's chances of acquittal. Furthermore, even if counsel's performance was unreasonable, petitioner failed to establish prejudice under Strickland v. Washington. View "King v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of bringing unlawful aliens into the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, a violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). The court held that the totality of the evidence allowed the jury to reasonably infer that defendant acted with the requisite financial purpose. In this case, the evidence gave the jury an impression of both financial motive and the existence of a financial source, and the jury heard nothing to suggest otherwise. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of bringing unlawful aliens into the United States for the purpose of commercial advantage or private financial gain, a violation of 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(2)(B)(ii). The court held that the totality of the evidence allowed the jury to reasonably infer that defendant acted with the requisite financial purpose. In this case, the evidence gave the jury an impression of both financial motive and the existence of a financial source, and the jury heard nothing to suggest otherwise. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Itron alleged that misrepresentations by three of SmartSynch's corporate officers (defendants) caused it unknowingly to assume an unwanted $60 million contractual obligation to a third party, Consert. Itron eventually settled Consert's claims and then filed suit against defendants for negligent misrepresentation. The magistrate judge ordered Itron to produce, without qualification, materials that were shielded from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. The Fifth Circuit granted Itron's petition for mandamus and vacated the magistrate judge's order, holding that the mere act of filing the lawsuit effected no waiver of any attorney-client privilege. The court remanded with instructions to reevaluate defendants' motion. View "In Re: Itron, Inc." on Justia Law

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Texas Penal Code 30.02(a)(1) and (a)(3) are not distinct offenses, but are rather separate means of committing one burglary offense. To the extent that it was inconsistent with this holding, the Fifth Circuit overruled its earlier decision in United States v. Uribe. Applying the categorical approach, the court held that because Texas Penal Code 30.02(a)(3) is plainly broader than generic burglary, and because Texas Penal Code 30.02(a)(1) and (a)(3) are indivisible, neither of defendant's two convictions under the Texas burglary statute may serve as the predicates of a sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act. Accordingly, the court vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Herrold" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Stanford, then an attorney, was charged under 21 U.S.C. 841, 846(b)(1)(c), 813, 802(32)(A) with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue (CSA); conspiracy to introduce and cause to be introduced misbranded drugs into interstate commerce; and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. The product, "Mr. Miyagi," a synthetic cannabinoid, contained a Schedule I CSA, “AM– 2201,” The court concluded that Count One did not require an instruction that the jury must find that Stanford knew AM-2201 was a CSA but permitted Stanford to present evidence on the issue. A jury convicted Stanford on all counts, concluding, in a special interrogatory, that Stanford knew that AM-2201 was a CSA. The court sentenced Stanford to 121 months’ imprisonment. After the Supreme Court’s “McFadden” ruling, that a defendant had knowledge that a CSA was a CSA, the Fifth Circuit remanded as to Count One only. The district court resentenced Stanford on the remaining convictions, again to 121 months’ imprisonment. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, upholding the denial of Stanford’s request for in camera review of co-conspirator witness reports and requests for reassignment to a different district judge. There was no reversible error in the calculation of the sentence for Count Two; U.S.S.G. 2N2.1 applies because the offense conduct was a violation of the FDCA for purposes of concealing the involvement with Mr. Miyagi. View "United States v. Stanford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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FWP and its designees filed suit against Chesapeake and related entities to recover payment allegedly due under a provision of a Surface Use Agreement governing Chesapeake's use of FWP's land. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that the payment provision was a covenant that ran with the surface of the land and that FWP accordingly forfeited the benefit of this covenant when it sold that land. Because FWP consequently forfeited its right to payment under this paragraph when it sold the surface of the land at issue to Chesapeake, the court did not address the district court's alternative holding. View "Fort Worth 4th Street Partners v. Chesapeake Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for aiding and abetting aggravated theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive two-year prison term. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant because the jury could reasonably infer that when defendant accessed his bank accounts online, the online descriptions of the deposits were the same as reflected on the paper bank statements admitted at trial. Furthermore, the jury could have reasonably inferred that prior to the filing of the April 2013 tax returns, defendant knew or was deliberately ignorant regarding the fact that the bank drops were IRS tax refunds. Therefore, defendant's argument that he did not have the necessary intent under Rosemond v. United States, was thus unavailing. View "United States v. Carbins, Jr." on Justia Law

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This case arose when one assisting tug allided with a bridge fender system and sank. The Fifth Circuit held that "tow" as used in Atlantic Specialty's policy was defined by its plain, ordinary meaning: a vessel that is provided auxiliary motive power by being pushed or pulled. A tug remains a tug when it is tugging (i.e., pushing or pulling), and a tow is a tow only when it is being towed (i.e., being pushed or pulled). In this case, because the MISS DOROTHY was not provided any extra motive power, it was not a tow. Therefore, Atlantic Specialty's policy did not apply. The court reversed the district court's application of the tort principle known as the "dominant mind" doctrine and rendered judgment in favor of Atlantic Specialty. View "Continental Insurance Co. v. L&L Marine Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law