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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit treated the petition for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing, denied the petition for panel rehearing, and denied the petition for rehearing en banc. The court withdrew its prior opinion and substituted the following opinion.The court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress where probable cause still exists even if the allegedly false statements are excised in the Title III wiretap affidavit; district court did not err in denying defendant's request for a Franks hearing; the evidence was sufficient to support his drug conspiracy conviction where a rational trier of fact could have found that defendant conspired with others to distribute crack cocaine; and the district court did not err by applying a firearm enhancement and an Armed Career Criminal Offender enhancement to defendant's sentence. The court dismissed the Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective counsel without prejudice because defendant did not preserve this challenge for direct appeal. View "United States v. Kendrick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit withdrew its previous opinion and affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner. Petitioner contends that the state court's decision denying his Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause claim was contrary to and involved an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent.The court held that Tennessee v. Street, 471 U.S. 409, 414 (1985), and Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 88 S. Ct. 1620, 20 L. Ed. 2d 476 (1968), do not even address the Confrontation Clause issue raised by petitioner's claims. To the extent the state district court was applying either opinion, the court concluded that it was an unreasonable application to hold they controlled as to these different facts. Rather, the court concluded that Gray v. Maryland, 523 U.S. 185 (1998), was closer factually and analytically to what occurred in this case. Nonetheless, the court concluded that any error was harmless because it did not have a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. View "Atkins v. Hooper" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 151 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in denying defendant a mitigating-role reduction where the record demonstrates that defendant understood the scope and structure of the conspiracy, exercised decision-making authority, participated in the conspiracy and performed acts to further it, and financially benefitted from the conspiracy. Though the lack of evidence regarding the degree to which defendant participated in planning or organizing the conspiracy weighs in favor of mitigation, the court has found that when some factors support the reduction, but others do not, the district court does not clearly err in denying the reduction.The court also held that defendant did not request the district court to articulate a factual basis for denying the mitigation-role reduction and thus United States v. Melton, 930 F.2d 1096, 1099 (5th Cir. 1991), is inapplicable to his case. Therefore, defendant failed to show any error, much less plain error, and remand is unnecessary. View "United States v. Pike" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit joined the Second, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits in adopting the fugitive tolling doctrine in the context of supervised release. The court held that 18 U.S.C. 3583(i) does not foreclose the fugitive tolling doctrine, and 18 U.S.C. 3624(e) does not preempt the fugitive tolling doctrine. As the four circuits to adopt it so far recognize, the court noted that by ensuring defendants participate in their supervision, the fugitive tolling doctrine protects the statutory scheme of post-confinement monitoring that Congress established in the Sentencing Reform Act.In this case, defendant argues that because his supervised release term ended in November 2018, the district court lacked jurisdiction over violations that occurred in October 2019. The court affirmed the district court's revocation of defendant's supervised release and held that defendant's status as a fugitive tolled his period of supervision. View "United States v. Cartagena-Lopez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit denied movant's request for authorization to file a third habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2255 to challenge his yet-unserved sixty-month sentence for carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. 924(c). Movant and his coconspirators were convicted of kidnapping and repeatedly raping a 16 year old high school student, taking turns beating her with a shovel, covering her with gasoline, and burying her alive.The court rejected movant's claim under Davis v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), and held that, although Davis set aside section 924(c)(3)'s residual clause as unconstitutionally vague, it left intact the elements clause of section 924(c). Furthermore, defendant's conviction for kidnapping resulting in death satisfies the elements clause of section 924(c)(3). View "In Re: Orlando Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for harboring illegal aliens. The court held that defendant's duplicity argument is waived; even if the district court erred by applying the reckless endangerment and bodily injury sentencing enhancements, the errors were harmless; the district court did not impermissibly delegate judicial authority through the wording of two special conditions of supervised release; and defendant failed to show error, plain or otherwise, in the district court's imposition of his within-Guidelines sentence. View "United States v. Medel-Guadalupe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Shelton Barnes, Michael Jones, Henry Evans, Paula Jones, and Gregory Molden's convictions and sentences for offenses related to Medicare fraud. In regard to Barnes, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions; the district court correctly concluded that the prosecution's remarks during rebuttal were improper, but they did not affect defendant's substantial rights; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to admit the proffered consent forms into evidence; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to read Barnes's proffered instructions to the jury.The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support Michael Jones's convictions. In regard to Henry Evans, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions; there was no error in allowing a certain expert witness to testify; and the district court did not procedurally or substantively err in sentencing him. In regard to Paula Jones, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support her convictions; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to grant her severance motion; and the district court did not procedurally err when calculating the total-loss amount applicable to her sentence and restitution order. In regard to Gregory Molden, the court held that the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to read the proffered instructions to the jury; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the expert witness at issue to testify. View "United States v. Barnes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The judge may not delegate to the probation officer the decision to require inpatient, rather than outpatient, treatment because of the liberty interests at stake. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's modification of defendant's conditions of supervised release to include a provision that he participate in an inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program supervised by defendant's probation officer. The court held that the option to require inpatient rehabilitation delegates to the probation officer the judicial decision to significantly restrict defendant's liberty during treatment. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence of 300 months in prison for healthcare fraud. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement as a medical doctor in Medicare fraud. The court held that taking the Amex and QC/EverBright schemes together, the district court correctly calculated the loss amount and correctly increased defendant's offense level by 26 points; the district court did not err by increasing defendant's offense level under USSG 2B1.1(b)(11)(C)(i) and 2B1.1(b)(2)(A)(i); and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant a hearing at sentencing. View "United States v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Fifth Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion.The court held that when a court order disposes of a habeas claim on procedural and, in the alternative, substantive grounds, a Rule 60(b) motion contesting this order inherently presents a successive habeas petition. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction over petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion -- facially challenging a procedural ruling and implicitly challenging a merits determination -- because it was a successive habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's inherent prejudice claim, because petitioner failed to overcome the arduous standard of review in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). In this case, petitioner identifies no clearly established law that the CCA misapplied, nor any unreasonable factual determinations on which the court based its holding. View "Will v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law