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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendants appealed their sentences for bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. 2113(a) and carrying firearms during the offenses under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). The Fifth Circuit affirmed and held that section 2113(a) is a crime of violence under section 924(c)(3)(A). The court also held that Defendant Gray's argument -- that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) for the July 28 robbery could not be a second or subsequent conviction in relation to the July 26 attempt -- was foreclosed by Deal v. United States, 508 U.S. 129 (1993), in which the Supreme Court construed the statute to permit a second or subsequent conviction to be charged in the same indictment and adjudicated in the same proceeding as the first instance of the offense. The court rejected Defendant Pervis' challenge to his 25 year sentence for his second gun conviction and held that the district court did not err under Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224 (1998). Finally, the court upheld the district court's determination that Gray was competent to stand trial. View "United States v. Pervis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's order denying his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to correct his 1996 sentence for various drug offenses. Defendant argued that the residual clause of the pre-Booker Sentencing Guideline's career offender provision, under which he was sentenced, is unconstitutionally vague because its language is the same as the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act declared unconstitutional in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Fifth Circuit held that it was debatable whether the right recognized in Johnson applies to the pre-Booker Sentencing Guidelines—an administrative regime that governs a judge's discretion to a range within the statutory minimum and maximum sentences. Therefore, defendant did not assert a right dictated by Johnson but instead asserts a right that would extend, as opposed to apply, Johnson to the pre-Booker Guidelines. Therefore, defendant was not entitled to the benefit of a new statute of limitations and his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion was time-barred. View "United States v. London" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Upon sua sponte rehearing, the Fifth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. The court granted the petition for review and held that petitioner failed to exhaust his challenge to the immigration court’s jurisdiction based on alleged defects in his Notice to Appear. The court also 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, the court concluded that this conviction did not disqualify petitioner from seeking cancellation of removal. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flores-Abarca v. Barr" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of murder. Petitioner claimed that his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated because his trial attorney failed to object when the prosecution asked a witness whether petitioner was in the United States legally. The court held that, even if counsel's nonobjection constituted ineffective assistance, petitioner failed to show prejudice. In this case, evidence of petitioner's guilt was overwhelming. View "Sanchez v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The court held that the district court clearly erred by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(15)(A) for using fear, impulse, friendship, affection, or some combination thereof to involve another individual in the offense. Under the court's interpretation of the verb "used," the court held that the evidence in the record did not support the application of the offense because he did not actively employ or play upon affection to induce involvement by his girlfriend in the offense. Furthermore, the district court's error was not harmless because it affected defendant's substantial rights. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Aguilar-Alonzo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner moved for a certificate of appealability (COA) to appeal whether, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6), extraordinary circumstances required the Fifth Circuit to reopen the final judgment and grant funding for representation services, as well as a stay of execution. The court denied a COA and held that petitioner failed to show that reasonable jurists would debate whether the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion. The court reasoned that, the changes in decisional law, even when viewed in conjunction with additional factors, failed to establish extraordinary circumstances warranting relief from the judgment. The court also denied the stay of execution because petitioner did not establish that the circumstances justified the exercise of the court's equitable discretion. View "Crutsinger v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to illegal reentry into the United States following deportation and having been previously convicted of an aggravated felony. The court held that defendant's prior conviction under Texas Penal Code 22.01(a)(1) and (b)(2) qualified as a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C.16, and his arguments to the contrary were foreclosed by United States v. Gracia-Cantu, 920 F.3d 252, 254 (5th Cir. 2019), petition for cert. filed (June 25, 2019) (18-1593). View "United States v. Fuentes-Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs in an action against Judges of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the Judges' practices in collecting criminal fines and fees violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court agreed and held that the district court did not err in applying the principles from Tumey v. State of Ohio, which held that officers acting in a judicial or quasi judicial capacity are disqualified by their interest in the controversy to be decided, and Ward v. Vill. of Monroeville, which presented a situation in which an official perforce occupies two inconsistent positions and necessarily involves a lack of due process of law in the trial of defendants charged with crimes before him. In this case, the Judges have exclusive authority over how the Judicial Expense Fund is spent, they must account for the OPCDC budget to the New Orleans City Council and New Orleans Mayor, and the fines and fees make up a significant portion of their annual budget. View "Cain v. White" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied movant's application to file a fourth federal habeas corpus petition and denied his motion for stay of execution. Movant was sentenced to death in 2000 after a Texas jury determined that he murdered the victim by strangulation while committing, or attempting to commit, kidnapping or sexual assault. The court held that movant's claim -- that a recent letter from a crime lab director showed the State sponsored false and misleading trial testimony -- could have been discovered long beforehand. Even assuming the facts underlying movant's claims were true, the court could not say that no reasonable jury would have found movant guilty in light of the evidence as a whole. Furthermore, movant's Giglio claim -- that the State sponsored false trial testimony from a criminologist -- also failed. View "In Re: Larry Swearingen" on Justia Law

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