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

Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Petitioner, a native and citizen of Mexico and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, appealed the IJ's determination that he was ineligible to apply for cancellation of removal to the BIA. The BIA dismissed the appeal, agreeing with the IJ that petitioner's auto-burglary conviction, as a conviction for an aggravated felony, rendered him ineligible to apply for cancellation of removal. The court made explicit what was dictum in Lopez-Elias v. Reno and joined its sister circuits in holding that a conviction for unauthorized entry of a vehicle with intent to commit a theft therein constituted a conviction for an attempted theft offense, which, under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(U) and 1229b(a)(3), rendered petitioner ineligible to apply for cancellation of removal. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Garcia v. Holder, Jr." on Justia Law

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This criminal prosecution stemmed from BP's response to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010. Defendant, BP's former Vice President of Exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, contended that he could not be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1505 for obstructing a congressional-subcommittee investigation because a congressional subcommittee is not "any committee of either House." The district court agreed and dismissed the obstruction count. The court interpreted the statutory class of "any committee of either House," to include congressional subcommittees. The court vacated and remanded, concluding that the indictment adequately alleged that defendant obstructed an investigation by a "committee of either House," and also that defendant knew of the investigation. View "United States v. Rainey" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for conspiracy to transport an alien within the United States for private gain. Defendant contended that the district court erroneously allowed the government to introduce at trial evidence of his withdrawn guilty plea and related inculpatory statements. Because an ambiguous plea agreement must be reasonably construed in favor of the defendant, the court concluded that the district court erred in reading the waiver as taking effect immediately rather than upon its acceptance of his guilty plea, and in allowing the government to introduce defendant's withdrawn guilty plea and related inculpatory statements at trial. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Escobedo" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, convicted of murder and sentenced to death, appealed the denial of his federal habeas petition. The court denied petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) in regards to petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claims where no reasonable jurist could debate that the state habeas court did not unreasonably apply controlling Supreme Court precedent in denying the claims; the court denied a COA on petitioner's claim that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment because he was an individual with an intellectual disability where a reasonable jurist could not find the merits of petitioner's constitutional claim debatable; and the court denied a COA on petitioner's claim that the Eighth Amendment prohibits his execution because he is mentally ill. View "Mays v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a death row inmate, appealed the denial of federal habeas relief on his intellectual disability and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. Petitioner contended that he was entitled to a certificate of appealability (COA) for his claim that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by choosing Dr. Quijano as their classification expert and eliciting testimony from him about race and ethnicity as factors for determining future dangerousness. The court denied petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability where plaintiff failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. In light of the overwhelming evidence of future dangerousness, reasonable jurists would not debate the district court's conclusion that there was not a reasonable probability that the jury would have answered the special issues differently in the absence of Dr. Quijano's isolated testimony about race and ethnicity. View "Garcia v. Stephens" on Justia Law

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In this diversity case, the court considered whether Mid-Continent was obligated under Texas law to pay for damage caused by one of its insureds, Arrow, when Arrow failed to promptly correct work in the home that it had constructed for plaintiffs and which failed to conform to the requirements of the construction contract into which Arrow and plaintiffs had entered. The court concluded that, consistent with Texas law and considering the Texas Supreme Court's decisions in Gilbert Texas Construction, L.P. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's London, and Ewing Construction Co. v. Amerisure Insurance Co., Mid-Content has demonstrated that an exclusion from coverage applied and that the insureds have failed to show that an exception to that exclusion applies. The district court committed no error in granting summary judgment to Mid-Content. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Crownover, et al. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possession with intent to distribute and to possession with intent to distribute marijuana - not cocaine. The cover sheet of his presentence report (PSR) erroneously listed his offense as conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, cocaine, and so did his judgment. Thirteen years after the entry of judgment, defendant filed a pro se motion with the district court under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. The district court corrected the judgment, but refused to correct the misstatement on the PSR. The court concluded that the PSR is a "part of the record" within the meaning of Rule 36. Further, the court concluded that the error was not harmless because it affected defendant's substantial rights. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Mackay" on Justia Law

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Defendants Rodriquez-Lopez and Barron appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Defendants raised a number of issues on appeal. The court concluded that a rational jury could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that venue was proper in the Eastern District of Texas; the evidence was sufficient to convict Rodriquez-Lopez; and Rodriquez-Lopez's sentence did not violate United States v. Booker. The court also concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict Barron. Although the court agreed with Barron that the prosecutor's comments during closing arguments were improper, the comments did not prejudice Barron. The court concluded, however, that the district court erred in applying a three-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. 1B1.3(a)(1)(A) for Barron's managerial or supervisory role in the drug conspiracy. Accordingly, the court vacated Barron's sentence as to Count One and remanded for resentencing. The court affirmed in all other respects. View "United States v. Rodriguez-Lopez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of a certificate of appealability (COA) for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Even assuming arguendo that petitioner had raised a presumption of vindictiveness claim, any such argument was foreclosed by the court's binding precedent in Delony v. Estelle. The court denied a COA on the prosecutorial vindictiveness claim and the ineffective assistance of counsel claims where petitioner could not demonstrate prejudice. View "Jordan v. Epps" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the district court's decision to revisit a school desegregation case in which the last order prior to 2009 was entered in 1974. The school board appealed the dismissal of its motion to dismiss the desegregation case, which was originally filed in 1965. The court concluded that it had appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court also concluded that Board of Education of Oklahoma City of Public Schools v. Dowell requires the conclusion that the 1974 Order is ambiguous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order denying the motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings View "Thomas, et al. v. St. Martin Parish" on Justia Law