Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress. Police officers investigating a domestic disturbance confiscated a suspect's cell phone and held it for two days before eventually obtaining a warrant to search it. The court held that the seizure was not justified on the ground that the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that the phone's owner was engaged in criminal wrongdoing and thus this was not a permissible Terry stop. However, the court held that the officers had probable cause to believe not only that the phone's owner had committed a crime and that the phone contained evidence of that crime, but also that the suspect would likely destroy that evidence before they could procure a warrant. View "United States v. Babcock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, or stay of execution. Plaintiff was convicted of murder and sentenced to death 30 years ago. The court denied plaintiff's motion for a stay of execution, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to stay plaintiff's execution on account of his three method of execution claims where he engaged in inexcusable delay in bringing the claims, which is enough to deny him the equitable remedy of a stay. Furthermore, the district court properly held that each of his claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The court also held that the district court properly concluded that plaintiff's public records and witness claims were barred by res judicata. View "Long v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas relief. The district court granted petitioner a certificate of appealability (COA) on whether he is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, and the court granted petitioner's request to expand the COA to include a Batson challenge. The court held that the Supreme Court's recent holding in Moore v. Texas did not apply retroactively to petitioner's intellectual disability claim, and that the state court's denial of his intellectual disability claim was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. In this case, the state court considered petitioner's ability to conceal his crime, ability to take care of his mother, and his scores on certain mathematics and reading tests as adaptive strengths that outweighed his apparent deficits. The court held that this approach was acceptable at the time. The court also held that the state court's denial of petitioner's claims that the prosecutor at his state trial struck jurors on the basis of gender and national origin in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments was not contrary to Batson v. Kentucky and its progeny, an unreasonable application of Batson, or an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to the state courts. View "Smith v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate. Petitioner, a Bahamian boat captain, pointed a firearm at passengers on the boat whom he had agreed to smuggle into the United States. When the passengers said they could not swim, he forced them to jump, or pushed them, from his boat into deep water off the coast of Florida where three of them drowned. The court held that petitioner's two federal second degree murder convictions qualify as crimes of violence under both 18 U.S.C. 924(c)'s residual clause because it involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another and elements clause because a federal second degree murder offense is not materially different from Florida’s second-degree murder offense. View "Thompson v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for possessing 15 or more unauthorized access devices in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1029(a)(3) and aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1). At issue was whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over a criminal case to accept a guilty plea where the indictment charges a violation of a valid federal criminal statute and sets forth the interstate commerce element of the crime; the factual proffer for the guilty plea states the government at trial would prove that the defendant's conduct affected interstate commerce; but the factual proffer does not contain any underlying facts explaining how the interstate commerce nexus was satisfied. The court held that the interstate commerce element in section 1029(a)(3) is not "jurisdictional" in the sense of bearing on whether the district court has subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate a case, and thus the government's alleged failure to prove sufficiently the interstate commerce nexus does not deprive the district court of its subject matter jurisdiction over defendant's criminal case. Therefore, in this instance, whether the government proved the interstate commerce nexus or failed to prove it, the district court still had subject matter jurisdiction over defendant's case and her conviction under section 1029(a)(3). View "United States v. Yero Grimon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's restitution order after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. At issue was how to calculate the amount of restitution a possessor of child pornography, like defendant, must pay to a victim whose childhood sexual abuse appears in the pornographic images he possessed but did not create or distribute. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the restitution amounts as to eight victims and vacated and remanded as to one victim. The court held that the district court was not required to calculate and disaggregate the victim's losses in the manner defendant suggested and that reliable evidence supported the restitution awards as to eight victims, but not as to one victim. View "United States v. Rothenberg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The presumption against the extraterritorial application of congressional legislation does not apply to preclude a sentencing judge from considering extraterritorial conduct which would otherwise be properly considered as relevant conduct. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the imposition of a two-level sentencing enhancement for distribution under USSG 2G2.2 after defendant was convicted of child pornography related offenses. In this case, the court rejected defendant's contention that his distribution of child pornography videos while he was in Jamaica should not have affected his Guidelines calculation. View "United States v. Spence" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition. The court rejected petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim and held that counsel's performance in presenting petitioner's case in mitigation was not objectively unreasonable where counsel's decisions were strategic and did not fall outside the wide range of reasonable professional assistance the Sixth Amendment required. The court also held that the trial court did not err in requiring petitioner to wear a stun belt during the resentencing trial where the stun belt was not visible to the jury or the public, and the state trial court's opinion was not contrary to and did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. View "Nance v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic Prison" on Justia Law

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A five-year statute of limitations for a defendant implicated by DNA testing, 18 U.S.C. 3297, permits indictment within five years of that testing regardless of whether the limitation period otherwise applicable to the offense has already expired. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment do not prohibit the use of the nontestimonial statements of a nontestifying criminal defendant against his codefendant in a joint trial. Defendants Hano and Arrastia-Cardoso were convicted of Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery. The Eleventh Circuit rejected Hano's argument that the indictment against him was not returned within the applicable limitation period; the evidentiary issues raised by defendants did not merit reversal; Hano failed to establish that the denial of his motion to obtain a DNA profile resulted in any prejudice; the court rejected Hano's argument that the government failed to produce sufficient evidence to support his convictions; the government did not improperly comment on Arrastia-Cardoso's decision not to testify; and Hano "otherwise used" a dangerous weapon in the commission of the robbery so the district court was warranted in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Hano" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant Bechir and Kenny's convictions and sentences for seven crimes arising out of their identity theft and tax fraud operations. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Bechir's motion to suppress and held that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement applied to the warrantless search of his car and, in the alternative, the inevitable discovery doctrine applied to the search. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to show that Kenny knowingly took part in the criminal activities of identity theft and tax fraud; the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing a detective to testify as an expert witness as to the meanings of the terminology used in stolen identity refund fraud generally or by the individuals recorded on the undercover video specifically; and defendants' cumulative error claim lacked merit. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(15)(B) for possession of a firearm in connection with defendants' offenses. Finally, Kenny's 84 month sentence was substantively reasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him. View "United States v. Delva" on Justia Law