Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendants Bernard and Vialva were convicted of capital murder under federal law and sentenced to death. The Fifth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability (COA) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2253(c)(2). The court held that defendants cited unrelated misconduct by the judge and then sought to link this to their substantive attacks on the federal court's previous resolution of a claim on the merits. Therefore, jurists of reason could not debate that the district court was correct to construe petitioners' filings as successive motions under section 2255. View "United States v. Vialva" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion seeking relief from the district court's judgment denying his 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court held that the district court did not err in determining that the Rule 60(b) motion should be construed as a successive section 2254 petition, requiring authorization from this court prior to filing as set forth in 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3). View "Gilkers v. Vannoy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to illegal reentry after having been deported. While his appeal was pending, the Fifth Circuit held in United States v. Herrold, 883 F.3d 517, 517 (5th Cir. 2018) (en banc), that a conviction under the same Texas burglary statute was not a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. In light of Herrold, the government conceded that plaintiff was entitled to a vacated sentence. Therefore, the court vacated and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Islas-Saucedo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit held that Sessions v. Dimaya, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1204 (2018), did not affect defendants' convictions for Hobbs Act robbery under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Therefore, the court affirmed its prior judgment regarding defendants' violations of section 924(c) as predicated on Hobbs Act robbery. The court held that section 924(c)'s residual clause was unconstitutionally vague and thus defendants' convictions and sentences for knowingly using, carrying, or brandishing a firearm to aid and abet conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery must be vacated. The court noted that its decision did not implicate the sentences on the other counts. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for entry of a revised judgment. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated a certificate of appealability (COA) on two issues and dismissed the appeal. The court held that it had no jurisdiction to issue a COA on an issue in which the district court did not deny a COA. In this case, petitioner did not present to the district court, in any manner identifiable by that court, a claim that he was constructively denied counsel. Therefore, the district court did not consider the Cronic issues and thus the COA was granted without jurisdiction. View "Black v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Movant, a federal death row inmate, sought authorization for a successive motion to vacate his death sentence, claiming that he is intellectually disabled. The Fifth Circuit held that the larger statutory context favors applying 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(1)'s strict relitigation bar to federal prisoners. In this case, movant was barred from relitigating his Atkins claim and his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion presented only a single claim that was already presented in his original motion. Therefore, the court denied his request for authorization. View "In Re: Alfred Bourgeois" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied a petition for panel rehearing and withdrew the previous opinions, substituting the following opinion. The court held that, in light of United States v. Herrold, defendant's conviction for burglary did not qualify as a predicate for the district court's application of a 16 level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(ii). Herrold abrogated prior decisions of this court that held that a conviction under Texas Penal Code 30.03(a)(1) was generic burglary. The court held, however, that defendant failed to satisfy the fourth prong of plain error review, because the error did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings. View "United States v. Fuentes-Canales" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) to challenge the denial of two of his habeas claims. Petitioner's first claim alleged that his trial counsel was constitutionally deficient during the penalty phase of trial by failing to correct a potentially misleading impression created by one of his experts. Petitioner's second claim alleged that the State suppressed material impeachment evidence of a pretrial conversation between a State witness and the lead prosecutor in his case. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner an evidentiary hearing and it properly denied petitioner's Strickland claim on the merits; the district court correctly held that petitioner's Brady claim was both procedurally defaulted and without merit; and the court rejected petitioner's claim of cumulative error. View "Murphy v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for evading arrest or detention while using a motor vehicle in violation of the Assimilative Crimes Act. The court held that security force officers on a military installation were included in the definitions of "peace officer" or "federal special investigator" and thus the factual basis for defendant's guilty plea supported a conviction under the Texas evading arrest or detention statute, as assimilated by the Act. In this case, defendant drove onto Fort Sam Houston, a military installation, without stopping at the entry gate for inspection. Security forces officers eventually forced defendant to stop by boxing in his vehicle. View "United States v. Hopkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for one count of transportation of child pornography. The court held that defendant waived any challenge to the factual sufficiency of his guilty plea; the district court did err by applying a cross reference to USSG 2G2.1; the district court properly applied an obstruction of justice enhancement under USSG 3C1.1; and defendant waived his argument that his sentence was disproportionate to the severity of the offense. View "United States v. Richard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law