Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision holding petitioner statutorily ineligible for cancellation of removal based on a prior 2004 firearm transportation conviction. The court held that petitioner failed to exhaust his challenge to the immigration court's jurisdiction based on alleged defects in his Notice to Appear. However, on the merits, the court held that the Oklahoma misdemeanor of transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle is not one of the firearms offenses listed under 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(C). Therefore, petitioner's conviction did not disqualify him from seeking cancellation of removal. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Flores-Abarca v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for receipt of child pornography and access with intent to view child pornography involving a prepubescent minor. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that defendant willingly and actively participated in the offense and was therefore not entitled to assert the outrageous-conduct defense on this ground alone. Furthermore, the court held that the FBI's brief sting operation involving the PlayPen website fell short of the boundaries of outrageous conduct in United States v. Tobias, 662 F.2d 381 (5th Cir. Unit B Nov. 1981), and did not violate fundamental fairness. Furthermore, law enforcement officials involved in the issuance and execution of the Network Investigative Technique (NIT) warrant acted with an objectively reasonable good faith belief that their conduct was lawful. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant on both counts, and the district court did not clearly err by applying the obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement under USSG 3C1.1. View "United States v. Pawlak" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability, holding that reasonable jurists would not debate that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion. In this case, petitioner failed to brief any waived claims sufficient to allow the district court to determine whether extraordinary circumstances were present, and petitioner failed to provide the court any authority that 18 U.S.C. 3599 has ever provided relief under Rule 60(b). However, in light of In re Cathey, 857 F.3d 221 (5th Cir. 2017), the court held that Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), created a new rule of constitutional law made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court. The court granted petitioner's motion for authorization of a successive application for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2)(A) and stayed his execution. The court held that petitioner made a prima facie showing of intellectual disability. Finally, the court held that the district court was in a better position to determine the timeliness of petitioner's motion for a successive application. View "Johnson v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for knowingly distributing and possessing child pornography. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of the offenses; the district court did not clearly or obviously violate his Confrontation Clause rights where defendant has not cited, and the court has not found, any case to support defendant's position that the machine-generated materials are statements of a witness or trigger the Confrontation Clause; the government's rebuttal arguments were not improper; and the government did not violate defendant's Brady rights by not disclosing the grand jury transcripts. The court also held that defendant's sentence was procedurally reasonable and the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. Furthermore, defendant's below-Guidelines sentence was substantively reasonable; the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant. View "United States v. Waguespack" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of transporting and shipping child pornography and one count of accessing child pornography with intent to view. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion to dismiss. In this case, the court rejected defendant's Brady claim that the government suppressed exculpatory evidence and held that defendant could not show that the overwritten data at issue was material. Furthermore, the court rejected defendant's Youngblood claim, and held that the government's actions in allowing the Windows update to install were at most negligent, not clear error. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding no bad faith, nor did the district court err by deciding the bad faith issue itself rather than sending it to the jury; the district court did not clearly err by denying defendant's motion to suppress where the district court held a Franks hearing and found the FBI agent's testimony to be credible and her mistake to be understandable considering the circumstances; and defendant's Daubert challenge failed because he did not adequately explain why the FBI agent's personal knowledge was insufficient nor has he directed the court to any cases supporting his opinion. View "United States v. Glenn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded defendants' convictions under 18 U.S.C. 924 in light of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), which held that the residual clause of section 924(c) is unconstitutionally vague. The court held that it was plain error to permit the jury to convict defendants of section 924 offenses based on RICO conspiracy as a crime of violence predicate. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas relief because it was time-barred. The court held that petitioner's motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court of Mississippi was "properly filed" under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(2), and that his one-year limitations period under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) would have been tolled while that motion was pending decision. Even accounting for the time that petitioner's AEDPA clock was tolled while his state habeas petition was pending both consideration and reconsideration, the court held that the factual predicate for his claim would have been discoverable through the exercise of due diligence more than a year prior to the filing of his federal habeas petition in December 2013. Accordingly, the petition was time barred under section 2244(d). View "Osborne v. Hall" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether district courts are authorized to conduct a plenary resentencing, which would include recalculating the Sentencing Guidelines range as if the defendant were being sentenced for the first time under present law, or whether courts are limited to reductions resulting from the Fair Sentencing Act. The Fifth Circuit held that the First Step Act does not allow plenary resentencing. In this case, the court affirmed defendant's sentence, holding that the district court committed no error in continuing to apply the career criminal enhancement when deciding on a proper sentence for defendant. View "United States v. Hegwood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his prison sentence of 120 months and five years of supervised release following his conviction for one count of transportation of child pornography. The court held that defendant's motion was time-barred where defendant failed to provide evidence to support his assertion, under the prison mailbox rule, that he placed his motion in a housing unit mailbox in time. In this case, the motion was postmarked five days after the one-year filing deadline and the district court did not have an obligation to inform pro se litigants of the kinds of evidence they may submit to support their assertion of timeliness. View "United States v. Duran" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he was convicted of illegal reentry into the United States. Defendant's claims of error stemmed from the district court's discussion at sentencing --regarding information gleaned from a prior sentencing hearing -- of the public safety risks inherent in driving under the influence of alcohol and of defendant's alcoholism. The court held that the district court's comments referring to the other case did not show that it improperly considered the circumstances or statements of anyone in that case in sentencing defendant. Furthermore, the record shows that a concern for public safety was the primary factor motivating the upward variance, and rehabilitation was at most a secondary concern or additional justification for the prison term. Therefore, the district court did not err, plain or otherwise, by imposing the upward variance. View "United States v. Botello-Zepeda" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law