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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 1440 month sentence after he was convicted of five counts relating to the production and possession of child pornography. The court held that the district court did not procedurally err when it calculated defendant's guidelines sentence as close to indefinite incarceration as the law allowed. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable, because the district court thoroughly discussed defendant's particularly heinous conduct and direct participation in the creation of child pornography, his breach of public trust as a police officer, and his total failure to take responsibility for his actions. View "United States v. Kirby" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of attempting to knowingly induce or entice a minor to engage in sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2422(b), solicitation of another to commit the crime of federal kidnapping under 18 U.S.C. 1201(a) in violation of 18 U.S.C. 373, and knowingly transmitting a communication containing a threat to kidnap in violation of 18 U.S.C. 875(c). The Eleventh Circuit held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction for Count 1, and the district court did not err in rejecting the testimony of two proposed experts. However, because section 1201(a) can be violated without the "use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another" as required by section 373(a)'s force clause, and because the court knows from Curtis Johnson v. United States and its progeny that "physical force" does not include "intellectual force or emotional force," defendant's 373 conviction must be reversed. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "United States v. Gillis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for two counts of wire fraud. The court held that United States v. Takhalov was distinguishable from this case and the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give defendant's proposed jury instruction on the difference between fraud and deceit; there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant; and there was no merit to defendant's claim that the district court reversibly erred by not making an on-the-record waiver inquiry and that the district court made an erroneous factual finding that impacted his sentence. View "United States v. Waters" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants, Mr. Feldman and Mrs. Feldman, appealed their convictions stemming from their operation of a pain management clinic. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Mrs. Feldman's motion for severance; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the testimony of the government's witness; because Mrs. Feldman implicitly consented to the order declaring a mistrial, she was not entitled to relief on her double jeopardy claim; and the court rejected Mrs. Feldman's remaining claims of prosecutorial misconduct and claims of error regarding the jury instructions. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support each of defendant's conspiracy convictions, and convictions based on dispensation of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose that resulted in death (Counts 2 through 4). However, the court reversed the district court's application of 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C)'s 20-year mandatory minimum sentence on Counts 2–4 and remanded the case for the district court to resentence Dr. Feldman to a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years as to each of these counts. View "United States v. Feldman" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of federal habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for two murders. The court held that Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), did not apply retroactively to petitioner and any challenge to his death sentence on this basis was beyond the court's reach on federal habeas review. The court also held that the Florida Supreme Court's rejection of petitioner's ineffective assistance claim was not an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). In this case, counsel's decision not to call an equivocal expert, in part to preserve an advantage at closing, was reasonable trial strategy. Furthermore, petitioner failed to meet his burden of showing prejudice under Strickland because there was no reasonable probability the expert's testimony would have made a difference in the outcome of the trial, given the weight of the evidence against him. View "Knight v. Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, who was sentenced to death for murder. The court held that the state court did not unreasonably determine that petitioner failed to establish objectively incompetent performance by his counsel during the penalty phase of his trial. Furthermore, even if petitioner had demonstrated that his counsel performed as no reasonable lawyer could have, the court did not find that the state court's decision -- that a different result was not substantially likely -- was an unreasonable application of Strickland v. Washington. The court also held that the state court did not unreasonably determine the facts or unreasonably apply Atkins v. Virginia with respect to the intellectual component of intellectual disability; the record supported the state court's conclusion that petitioner did not have substantial deficits in adaptive behavior; the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' determination that petitioner did not have intellectual disability was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Atkins; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying an evidentiary hearing on the Atkins claim. View "Jenkins v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for crimes related to his involvement in an $11 million scheme that involved cashing tax refund checks that he had fraudulently obtained in the names of inmates, minors, dead people, and other insentient or otherwise unsuspecting "clients." The Eleventh Circuit held that it need not decide whether the testimony of a government witness constituted inadmissible hearsay, because any error in admitting the testimony was harmless. In this case, there was more than enough evidence to support defendant's conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining claims of evidentiary errors, and held that the district court did not err in imposing sentencing enhancements pertaining to the amount of money that the government lost and the number and vulnerability of the victims. However, the court held that the district court did commit reversible error when it failed to permit defendant to allocute personally. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and remanded for defendant to have the opportunity to address the district court directly. View "United States v. Baptiste" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for child pornography related charges, holding that evidence discovered under a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) warrant need not be suppressed. The court held that the magistrate judge's actions exceeded Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(b) and her statutorily prescribed authority under the Federal Magistrates Act, and thus the warrant was void ab initio. However, the court held that, because the exclusionary rule is concerned solely with deterring culpable police misconduct—and not at all with regulating magistrate judges' actions—void and voidable warrants should be treated no differently. Therefore, the court held that an officer's reasonable reliance on the former, like the latter, can provide the basis for applying the good faith exception. The court also held that, even if the good faith exception can apply when an officer relies on a void warrant, the good faith exception was applicable in this case where the officers' warrant application adequately disclosed the nature of the technology at issue and the scope of the intended search, and the officers reasonably relied on the magistrate judge's determination that the search was permissible. View "United States v. Taylor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner's application seeking an order authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner claimed that he is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty. The court held that petitioner failed to make a prima facie showing that his claim satisfied the requirements of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(2), because petitioner failed to rely on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable, because all the cases he relies on were either previously available to him or were not made retroactive to cases on collateral review. The court also denied petitioner's emergency motion to stay his execution. View "In re: Gary Ray Bowles" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied the motion for stay of execution pending appeal, holding that the district court rightly dismissed petitioner's current petition as second or successive under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A). In this case, petitioner failed to obtain authorization from this court before filing the petition. The court rejected petitioner's remaining three claims as to why his petition should not be dismissed, and held that petitioner failed to show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his appeal. View "Bowles v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law