Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief. Petitioner argued that he would not have pleaded guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft but for his counsel's erroneous advice concerning the deportation consequences of his plea. The district court assumed, without deciding, that petitioner's attorney's performance was deficient. The court declined to assume that counsel's performance was deficient and held, instead, that counsel's performance was not deficient and petitioner failed to satisfy his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. In this case, counsel could not have predicted the district court's fraud loss findings. Furthermore, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing under 28 U.S.C. 2255. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was sentenced to death for first degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, sexual battery, and burglary of a conveyance with assault. Petitioner subsequently filed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition, which the district court denied. The Eleventh Circuit granted a certificate of appealability on two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's ineffective assistance claims, holding that petitioner has not shown that his counsel's failure to investigate and call a witness prejudiced his defense at either the guilt or sentence stage. View "Johnston v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner authorization to file another federal habeas petition so that he could raise an actual innocence claim, a Brady claim, and an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The court held that its authority to grant the application was restricted by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), because petitioner failed to make a prima facie showing that the claims in his application met the requirements under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b). In this case, petitioner could not raise an actual innocence claim in his successive petition because he has already raised the claim, he has not identified a "but for" constitutional violation, and he has not met the demanding actual innocence standard in Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 417 (1993). Furthermore, petitioner's Brady claim failed because he could not show that he could not have discovered the information at issue with due diligence or, assuming the State failed to disclose the information, petitioner failed to show a "but for" constitutional violation. Finally, petitioner failed to show that the factual predicate for his ineffective assistance of counsel claim could not have been discovered previously. View "In Re: James Dailey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and possession with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The court rejected defendants' constitutional challenges to the MDLEA where the court has previously held that the MDLEA is a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Felonies Clause as applied to drug trafficking crimes without a "nexus" to the United States; the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause does not prohibit the trial and conviction of aliens captured on the high seas while drug trafficking because the MDLEA provides clear notice that all nations prohibit and condemn drug trafficking aboard stateless vessels on the high seas; and because the MDLEA's jurisdictional requirement goes to the subject matter jurisdiction of the courts and is not an essential element of the MDLEA substantive offense, it does not have to be submitted to the jury for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the court held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction over defendants and their offenses under the MDLEA. The court rejected Defendant Guagua-Alarcon's challenges to his presentment for a probable cause hearing; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant Palacios-Solis's motion in limine; sufficient evidence supported defendants' convictions; and because Palacios-Solis failed to show a Brady violation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial. Finally, the court also rejected defendants' claims of sentencing errors. View "United States v. Cabezas-Montano" on Justia Law

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Defendants may not use a writ of error coram nobis to challenge a forfeiture judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief after determining that defendants had standing to bring their challenge. The court held that, even assuming that Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626, 1630 (2017), -- which held that a different forfeiture statute does not permit joint-and-several liability -- applies retroactively and that coram nobis may be used, defendants were not entitled to relief because their failure to challenge their forfeiture judgments on direct appeal means they cannot challenge them now. As a non-jurisdictional error, the court stated that defendants needed to raise their Honeycutt claims on direct appeal to avoid procedural default. In this case, defendants failed to establish cause for not raising their claims on direct appeal, and defendants also failed to establish prejudice. View "United States v. Bane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiring to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The court held that probable cause supported defendant's arrest because the informant's information was veritable, reliable, and corroborated. The court also held that the district court did not err by refusing to apply a two-level sentence reduction for truthful disclosure under USSG 2D1.1(b)(17), because defendant failed to satisfy his burden of proving his truthful disclosure. View "United States v. Mancilla-Ibarra" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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On petition for rehearing, the Eleventh Circuit vacated and reconsidered its original opinion, substituting the following opinion. The court affirmed the district court's grant of GDC's motion to quash plaintiffs' subpoena directing GDC to testify at a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition and to produce documents concerning Georgia's lethal injection protocol. Plaintiffs argued that the information was necessary to support their 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims pending in the Southern District of Mississippi challenging the legality of Mississippi's lethal injection protocol. The court held that the district court applied the correct standard of review, the clearly erroneous or contrary-to-law standard, to the magistrate judge's ruling on the motion to quash. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by affirming the magistrate judge's ruling to grant GDC's motion to quash where the relevance of the information sought in the GDC subpoena to the pending section 1983 litigation was highly questionable; the subpoena subjected GDC to an undue burden which mandated the quashing of the subpoena under Rule 45(d)(3)(A)(iv); and compliance with plaintiffs' subpoena would impose an undue burden on the State of Georgia. View "Jordan v. Georgia Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for procuring naturalization unlawfully, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1425(a), and misuse of evidence of an unlawfully issued certificate of naturalization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1423. The court held that the annotated Form N-400 was (1) admissible non-hearsay as an adopted admission of a party-opponent under Federal Rule of Evidence 801, and, (2) alternatively, was properly admitted under the public record hearsay exception in Federal Rule of Evidence 803. Furthermore, the officer's red marks in the annotated Form N-400 Application was not testimonial and did not violate the Confrontation Clause. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting defendant's post-Miranda statement, and the evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant's conviction as to Count 1. View "United States v. Santos" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a juror after the juror stated that the Holy Spirit had "told" him to return a certain verdict irrespective of what the evidence showed. The court found no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision to question Juror 13. The court held that the district court did not clearly err when it found that Juror 13 was not capable of returning a verdict based on the evidence adduced at trial, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Juror 13 after finding that he was not capable of reaching a verdict based on the evidence. The court also held that Rule 606(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence did not apply to the court's inquiry into Juror 13's statement. The court rejected defendant's claim that the district court violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment by excusing Juror 13. Finally, the court held that the district court did not plainly err in issuing the forfeiture order. View "United States v. Brown" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit published this opinion in place of its previous opinion, which was vacated by order of the court. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief, holding that a district court may, on its own initiative and without hearing from the State, decide that the statute of limitations bars the petition. In this case, petitioner was provided ample notice and opportunity to explain why his petition was timely in his form petition and again when he was given the opportunity to respond to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation that his petition be summarily dismissed as untimely. Furthermore, the Secretary was notified of the court's action, had an opportunity to respond, and remained silent. No one contests that the petition was untimely and the State has never indicated a desire to waive the limitations bar. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the petition. View "Paez v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law