Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 50 month sentence after he pleaded guilty of illegal reentry after removal. The court held that, although defendant was correct that the district court erred in scoring three prior convictions, he failed to demonstrate that the error affected his substantial rights. In this case, the district court's statements substantiated that there was no reasonable probability that defendant's sentence would have been different had the district court used the correct guideline range of 21 to 27 months instead of 24 to 30 months. View "United States v. Nino-Carreon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction and dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A. Plaintiff argued that the composition of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The court held that plaintiff failed to allege a violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, and thus the district court properly dismissed the section 1983 complaint on the merits. The court reasoned that plaintiff's allegations did not reflect the complete lack of process that the court has held may violate the minimal due process protections that exist in the clemency context. View "Garcia v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Reyes-Contreras pleaded guilty of illegal reentry. Because he had been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Missouri, the district court applied a 16-level USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii) sentencing enhancement for a crime of violence. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded, finding that Missouri's manslaughter statute was non-generic. Although the court found that the statute was divisible and could warrant an enhancement under the modified categorical approach, the documents of conviction did not indicate the subsection of conviction. On rehearing, en banc, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the application of the enhancement, overruling its own precedent. Defense counsel acknowledged that the crime was a killing by baseball bat; there was no need to dissect the details of the crime. The statute is divisible. Subdivision (1) is generic manslaughter and formed the basis of Reyes-Contreras’s conviction. It is a crime of violence on which the sentencing enhancement was properly based. Even if the statute were indivisible, Subdivision (2) has as an element the use of force under a proper understanding of Supreme Court precedent, so that the enhancement is legally correct for an independent reason. View "United States v. Reyes-Contreras" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Blackman was convicted of murder in 1998 and sentenced to life imprisonment. In a successive Section 2255 application, she challenged her conviction under Brady v. Maryland, Napue v. Illinois, and Giglio v. United States. The claim was based on the inconsistency between a detectives trial testimony that a witness had positively identified Blackman in the lineup and the prosecutor’s note indicating hesitation. The district court dismissed the petition. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The petition did not fulfill the stringent requirements of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(B). Even if Blackman could establish that she exercised due diligence in discovering the basis for her claims, the newly discovered evidence, taken together with the proof adduced at trial, does not show “by clear and convincing evidence” that, but for the prosecution’s misconduct, “no reasonable factfinder would have found her guilty” of murder. The district court was not authorized to grant a certificate of appealability on the merits of Blackman’s claims while also determining that her petition ultimately failed to meet the statutory prerequisites for a successive try at federal habeas relief. View "Blackman v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability to challenge the district court's denial of petitioner's federal habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner failed to show that jurists of reason could debate whether the district court erred in denying his petition for habeas relief on his claim for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The court also held that Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071 section 2(e)(1) offered a "broad definition of mitigating evidence" that was not limited by Article 37.071 section 2(f)(4)'s reference to "moral blameworthiness." Therefore, the state court did not unreasonably apply clearly established law. View "Hummel v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment reflecting defendant's conviction under the relevant Georgia statute as an aggravated felony under 8 U.S.C. 1326(b)(2). The court held that aggravated assault under Georgia law qualified as an aggravated felony, because it has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another. View "United States v. Valle-Ramirez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy and several counts of mail fraud. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motion for a new trial and request for an evidentiary hearing; the admittance of a special agent's testimony regarding the admissions of a codefendant did not violate defendant's Confrontation Clause rights; the district court did not misapply the Sentencing Guidelines in enhancing defendant's offense level; and there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's restitution and forfeiture orders. View "United States v. Dickerson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a $5,000 special assessment and held that 18 U.S.C. 3014 allows the district courts to consider defendant's future earning capacity when determining whether a defendant is indigent. In this case, the district court found defendant non-indigent based on evidence that he took accelerated placement courses in high school, obtained his GED, and briefly attended college; had a wide range of vocational skills; had a long history of employment; had previously earned $40,000 annually; and was able bodied. View "United States v. Graves" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants Walter and Steven Reed appealed their convictions for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, as well as the substantive counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Walter was also convicted of additional counts. The charges stemmed from defendants' use of Walter's District Attorney campaign funds. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's imposition of joint and several liability for money forfeiture in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Honeycutt v. United States, which held that joint and several forfeiture liability was not permitted for forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. 853(a)(1), which mandates forfeiture for certain drug crimes. In this case, the government conceded that the imposition of joint and several forfeiture liability should be vacated and remanded in light of Honeycutt. The court otherwise affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Reed" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for count 23 -- possession, use, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence (brandishing) -- where both parties agreed that under United States v. Davis, 903 F.3d 483, 484–86 (5th Cir. 2018), defendant's conviction of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery (count 1) could not serve as the underlying crime of violence predicate for his initial count 23 conviction. The court also held that, because the conviction affected his sentence, the sentence must be vacated and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law