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 conviction and sentence for possessing a firearm while being a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding out-of-court statements as hearsay when they were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In this case, the danger of unfair prejudice carried by a third party's confession was enormous and the confession would almost certainly precipitate a trial within a trial on the adequacy of the Task Force investigation.The court also concluded that, although defendant's indictment was insufficient under Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), the insufficiency did not affect his substantial rights; the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an unredacted copy of defendant's prior firearm conviction; and the Florida offense of armed robbery is a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). View "United States v. Elysee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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After an ATF reverse sting operation caught petitioner in the midst of an effort to commit armed robbery of a house he believed held the cocaine stash of a Colombian cartel, a jury convicted petitioner of both conspiring to use and using a firearm during a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(o) and 924(c). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence. Petitioner now appeals the district court's rejection of his section 2255 collateral attack on these convictions.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment because petitioner cannot overcome the procedural default of his claim and because even if he could, he suffered no harm from the inclusion of an invalid predicate offense, Hobbs Act conspiracy, in his indictment and jury instructions. The court explained that both conclusions follow from the same feature of petitioner's case: the Hobbs Act conspiracy was inextricably intertwined with petitioner's conspiracy and attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine (Counts 2 and 3), convictions petitioner does not dispute are valid drug trafficking predicates for his Count 4 and Count 5 convictions. View "Parker v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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A Florida conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, Fla. Stat. 790.23(1)(a), is categorically an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(43)(E)(ii).The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition for review challenging the BIA's removal based on petitioner's Florida felon-in-possession conviction. The court concluded that petitioner is not entitled to relief based on exemplar prosecutions. In this case, petitioner does not assert that his own felon-in-possession conviction involved an antique firearm, but he does point to exemplar prosecutions that he says establish that Florida actually prosecutes felons for possession of federal antique firearms. However, petitioner does not point to exemplar prosecutions of felons for mere possession of federal antique firearms nor for possessing black-powder muzzleloaders. Furthermore, Florida's felon-in-possession statute is not broader than the federal statute on its face and thus petitioner is not entitled to relief based on the statutory language. View "Aspilaire v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit concluded that petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling as he demonstrated that he exercised reasonable diligence in pursuing his rights and he further demonstrated extraordinary circumstances—his counsel's abdication of her duty of loyalty to petitioner so she could promote her own interests—that prevented the filing of his petition. The court explained that counsel's interests were so adverse to those of her client that counsel effectively abandoned petitioner. In this case, counsel sacrificed petitioner's guaranteed opportunity of federal habeas review in order to pursue her own novel—and ultimately meritless—constitutional argument against the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's limitations period.On the merits of the habeas petition, the court concluded that the district court correctly ruled that petitioner procedurally defaulted on his first two claims and the state court reasonably denied relief on his third claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order denying habeas relief on the merits. View "Thomas v. Attorney General, State of Florida" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's order of removal of petitioner as an alien convicted of aggravated felonies after his admission to the United States. In this case, petitioner was a citizen when he was convicted. At issue is whether a denaturalized alien is removable as an aggravated felon based on convictions entered while he was an American citizen.The court explained that, by its plain terms, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) does not apply to aliens who were citizens when convicted. Therefore, the court held that the plain meaning of section 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) forecloses the BIA's interpretation. Furthermore, binding precedent, Costello v. Immigr. & Naturalization Serv., 376 U.S. 120 (1964), forecloses treating petitioner's denaturalization as retroactive for removal purposes. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hylton v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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McKiver is serving a mandatory 25-year sentence for a crime he committed shortly after he graduated high school. He admitted to stealing oxycodone pills from his neighbor; the state never disputed that he consumed those pills within 48 hours of acquiring them. A state postconviction court granted McKiver a new trial based on allegations of ineffective assistance. An appellate court reversed in a one-sentence order. McKiver filed a federal habeas petition that argued his trial counsel failed to investigate and present certain witnesses who would cast doubt on the state’s case and the criminal history of a key state witness.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The state court did not unreasonably apply "Strickland" in rejecting the witness-testimony claim. The only evidence before that court was McKiver’s own conclusory testimony about what the witnesses would have said and whether they would have been available and willing to testify. Fair-minded jurists could agree that McKiver’s evidentiary presentation failed to establish that he met Strickland’s test, especially with respect to its prejudice prong. McKiver cannot surmount the procedural default of his criminal-history claim. There is no reasonable probability that McKiver’s trial would have reached a different conclusion if his trial counsel had investigated the criminal history of the witness. View "McKiver v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit concluded that this court's and the Florida state courts' precedent are clear that petitioner's amended state-court motion for postconviction relief relates back to his initial postconviction motion, tolling the statute of limitations for the time in between his initial motion was dismissed and his amended motion was filed. In this case, petitioner's amended rule 3.850 motion relates back to his initial motion, tolling the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act's limitations period for the time in between. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing the petition as untimely and remanded for further proceedings. View "Morris v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition as untimely. Petitioner argues that the district court erred by taking judicial notice of the online state court dockets without providing him an opportunity to be heard. However, the court concluded that petitioner himself provided all the information needed to show that his filing was late, and he was given a chance to argue that the district court erred. In this case, when petitioner admitted untimeliness and provided the dates to prove it, he eliminated any need for the district court to look elsewhere before dismissing his petition. Furthermore, petitioner had an opportunity to be heard on the propriety of taking judicial notice here and simply did not take advantage of it. View "Turner v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for five counts of armed robbery and carrying a firearm in furtherance of the robberies. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied defendant's motion to continue the trial date; the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in declining to dismiss Juror 20 for cause based on her employment with the Department of Community Supervision because she did not qualify as a member of a police department; even assuming without deciding that the Google geo-location data should have been excluded as "fruit of the poisonous tree," any error in admitting that evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions for the robberies; the special agent's testimony does not warrant vacatur of the convictions; and, even assuming error, cumulative error does not warrant vacatur of the convictions. View "United States v. Pendergrass" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendants Mayweather, Fluelllen, Williams, and Tucker appealed their convictions for Hobbs Act extortion and attempted distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine. Defendants were corrections officers caught in an FBI sting operation for accepting bribes to smuggle contraband into prison.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that Williams and Fluellen were entitled to an entrapment defense jury instruction, the omission of which was reversible error. Therefore, the court reversed Williams and Fluellen's convictions and remanded for a new trial. The court also concluded that Tucker and Mayweather were not entitled to an entrapment instruction, and thus affirmed their respective attempted drug distribution convictions. Finally, the court concluded that it was reversible error not to provide the jury with any definition of "official act" for purposes of the Hobbs Act extortion counts. Accordingly, the court reversed the Hobbs Act extortion convictions as to all four defendants and remand for a new trial as to those counts. View "United States v. Mayweather" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law