Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims against the City and Eddie Salame, Chief of the Grapevine Police Department (GPD). The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Officer Robert Clark on plaintiff's remaining excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on the basis of qualified immunity. Ruben Garcia-Villalpando was shot and killed by Clark. Given the tense and evolving factual circumstances, the court held that Clark reasonably believed that Garcia-Villalpando posed a threat of serious harm. In this case, Garcia-Villalpando fled the scene of a serious crime, drove recklessly and endangered others, refused to obey roughly thirty commands, and approached Clark on a narrow highway shoulder directly adjacent to speeding traffic. The court explained that the fact that Garcia-Villalpando was ultimately found to have been unarmed was immaterial. Because plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Garcia-Villalpando's Fourth Amendment rights were violated, her claims against the City and Salame for failure to train and inadequate screening/hiring failed as well. View "Romero v. Grapevine, Texas," on Justia Law

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The National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. 5861(d) criminalizes possession of certain unregistered firearms, including silencers and “destructive devices” like grenades. Sentences for such crimes may be enhanced based on the number of devices involved. In a sting operation, Maturino tried to buy 144 live grenades (plus other firearms) from an undercover ATF agent for a Mexican drug cartel, but 143 were inert. Maturino pleaded guilty under the Act/ The district court, quoting Sentencing Guidelines commentary, imposed an eight-level enhancement based on the number of grenades “sought to be obtained.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting Maturino’s argument that his sentence should reflect what he bought (one live grenade) not what he sought. Maturino’s plan to stockpile live grenades failed, but the sentencing court properly considered what he pursued, not what he possessed. View "United States v. Maturino" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Sam, aged 16, walked with friends to Walmart, where they split up. The group left the store; Stag, stole a jacket. At 9:49 p.m., Officer Richard responded to the reported theft, encountered Sam’s group, and activated his emergency lights. Sam’s group scattered. Another officer threatened to release a dog if they didn’t stop. Sam lay face down on the ground, with his hands on the back of his head. Sam stated in deposition that Richard slapped Sam's face, kneed him, handcuffed him, and shoved him against a car. The slap did not break the skin, but a scrape drew blood from Sam’s hip. Richard agreed that Sam did not resist, but denied using force. Another officer handcuffed Stag. Both were placed in Richard’s patrol car. Richard returned to Walmart at 10:03 p.m. A security guard identified Stag as the thief. At 10:45 p.m., Richard drove the boys to the police station. Sam’s mother picked him up. Sam did not visit a doctor that night. One of Sam’s friends stated in deposition that Sam “looked like he got hit” and “his face was a little red and bruised.” Medical records generated about six weeks later indicate that Sam complained of lingering hip pain. The district court dismissed Sam’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint. The Fifth Circuit vacated in part. Sam’s evidence of excessive force is sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion. The court affirmed rejection of an unjustified detention claim. View "Sam v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated appellee's 80 month sentence and remanded for resentencing. In this case, appellee pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. The court held that a motion by the government was required for the district court to depart below the minimum term of imprisonment established by Congress for the drug offense appellee committed. Therefore, it was error for the district court to sua sponte depart from the minimum. View "United States v. Sealed Appellee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated appellee's 80 month sentence and remanded for resentencing. In this case, appellee pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. The court held that a motion by the government was required for the district court to depart below the minimum term of imprisonment established by Congress for the drug offense appellee committed. Therefore, it was error for the district court to sua sponte depart from the minimum. View "United States v. Sealed Appellee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner was convicted in a state court of two murders and subsequently acquitted of the second murder. As to the second murder, the district court granted habeas relief after concluding that material evidence, favorable to petitioner, had been withheld prior to trial; and the state courts' contrary decisions had unreasonably applied clearly-established federal law, as proscribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that petitioner established actual innocence to overcome the statute of limitations for his application where he presented substantial exculpatory evidence related to both murders; the State withheld favorable, material evidence, in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); and the district court correctly applied AEDPA in concluding that, in denying Floyd post-conviction relief in state court, those courts unreasonably applied clearly-established federal law. View "Floyd v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of illegal reentry. The court held that any challenged statements from the prosecutor were not improper and, moreover, they did not affect defendant's substantial rights; under consistent circuit precedent, the warrant of removal was properly admitted under the public records exception pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8); and there was no evidence suppressed for Brady v. Maryland purposes. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of illegal reentry. The court held that any challenged statements from the prosecutor were not improper and, moreover, they did not affect defendant's substantial rights; under consistent circuit precedent, the warrant of removal was properly admitted under the public records exception pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8); and there was no evidence suppressed for Brady v. Maryland purposes. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress several bundles of cocaine discovered and seized after he consented to the search of his vehicle. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant's consent to the search was voluntary where the law enforcement agent did not use coercive police procedures to make defendant consent to the search of his vehicle. View "United States v. Perales" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner, convicted of capital murder of a police officer and sentenced to death, argued that he was entitled to federal habeas relief on his claim that the press coverage of the crime and the presence of uniformed police officers in the gallery during his trial created an inherently prejudicial atmosphere that violated his right to a fair trial. On the merits, the Fifth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(2) barred consideration of the media reports included in petitioner's federal petition, and the district court properly declined to consider them. The court also held that petitioner's fair trial claim did not warrant habeas relief. The court explained that other courts have declined to find the mere presence of officers in a courtroom sufficient to support inherent prejudice, and the record before the court did not suggest the police presence intimidated the jury or disrupted the factfinding process in any way. Furthermore, even assuming that section 2254(e)(2) did not bar this court's consideration of the media-related evidence presented for the first time in petitioner's federal habeas petition, his fair trial claim still failed. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery, nor did it err in resting its conclusion on the evidence presented in the federal habeas petition. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of relief on the merits. View "Jones v. Davis" on Justia Law