Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted respondent's petition for rehearing en banc and withdrew the prior opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 application. The court held that, under Gonzalez v. Crosby, petitioner's purported Rule 59(e) motion was not an unauthorized successive section 2254 application and, if timely filed, would toll the deadline for filing a notice of appeal until the entry of the order disposing of the motion. In this case, petitioner's Rule 59(e) motion, which was delivered by petitioner's "next friend," was timely filed and tolled the deadline for filing a notice of appeal. Finally, the court held that petitioner was not entitled to section 2254 relief because the circumstances in this case did not rise to the level of the extreme situations wherein courts have previously imputed juror bias. View "Uranga v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, and aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction even if he never exercised dominion or control over the marijuana. In this case, defendant associated with a criminal venture, ensured that his coconspirator possessed the marijuana in order to transport it across the border, purposefully participated in the venture, and sought by his actions to make the venture succeed. View "United States v. Scott" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's prior Texas conviction for robbery was not a violent felony because it did not have the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force" as an element. Accordingly, defendant lacked the three requisite prior violent felonies to be sentenced as an armed career criminal. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Burris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he was convicted of distributing a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The court held that the district court did not err in determining that his Texas deferred adjudications qualified as prior convictions for the purpose of 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(1)'s sentencing enhancement. Furthermore, defendant's due process rights were not violated and his argument that his sentence exceeded the statutory maximum term of imprisonment was foreclosed by precedent. View "United States v. Ary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted this opinion in its place. The court reversed defendant's sentence, holding that his prior conviction for sexual assault under Texas Penal Code 22.011(a)(2) was not a crime of violence within the meaning of USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the 2015 Sentencing Guidelines. The court need not decide whether defendant's prior conviction qualified as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(F) and 2L1.2(b)(1)(C) of the 2015 Sentencing Guidelines, because even if it did, the sixteen level increase defendant received was still erroneous. Accordingly, the panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Hernandez-Avila" 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, who was sentenced to death for the murder of a seventy-year old woman. The court held that petitioner was not intellectually disabled and not ineligible for execution under Atkins v. Virginia; he did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and, even if counsel was deficient, petitioner could not establish prejudice; and his trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to conduct an adequate sentencing investigation or by failing to present an adequate mitigation case during the penalty phase of trial. View "Busby v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for charges stemming from his operation of a pill mill. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of distributing controlled substances, money laundering, and mail fraud; there was no plain error, whether by lack of evidence or defects in the indictment, with respect to any of defendant's convictions; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; and assuming without deciding that defendant's rights were violated under the Confrontation Clause, any error was harmless. View "United States v. Evans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 and related state-law claims against the city and the police department after the police chief revoked plaintiff's city-issued towing permit. The revocation was based on a complaint by a competing tow company that plaintiff's state-issued licenses had lapsed. The court held that the district court acted within its discretion when it considered the city's motion before dismissing the amended complaint; plaintiff's class-of-one equal protection claim was properly dismissed where he was not treated differently than others similarly situated; and the false arrest claim was properly dismissed because plaintiff did not obey an officer's apparently lawful order to leave the site of a towed car and the officer was not objectively unreasonable in believing that he had probable cause to arrest plaintiff. View "Rountree v. Dyson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in treating defendant's possession offense as a prior conviction rather than as relevant conduct. In this case, the marijuana was not linked to the conspiracy to distribute and thus it was not clear error to consider the offense as a prior conviction. View "United States v. Heard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of habeas relief to a petitioner that was convicted of aggravated rape of a child under the age of thirteen. The court held that clearly established Supreme Court precedent demanded proof that the prosecution made knowing use of perjured testimony to establish a constitutional violation. In this case, the district court found no evidence to suggest that the State, or anyone else, knew that the victim was offering false testimony at trial. Therefore, the Louisiana Supreme Court decision denying relief was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent. View "Pierre v. Vannoy" on Justia Law