Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's 259 month sentence after he was convicted of multiple crimes stemming from his drug-dealing and identity-theft activities. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in applying the firearm enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(1) and the premises enhancement under USSG 2D1.1(b)(12). However, the district court plainly erred in not allowing plaintiff to allocute before pronouncing sentence. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. George" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted the State's motion to vacate the district court's certification of appealability and denied petitioner's stay of execution. Petitioner contended that his federal Due Process, Equal Protection, and Eighth Amendment rights were violated by the state court's failure to give retroactive effect to (1) Chapter 2017-1, a revised version of Florida Statute 921.141 (Florida's capital sentencing statute), and (2) the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hurst v. Florida. The court assumed without deciding that the current petition was not a second or successive one for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) purposes, and held that the Florida Supreme Court's rejection of petitioner's constitutional-statutory claim was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, the holding of a Supreme Court decision. View "Lambrix v. Secretary, DOC" on Justia Law

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In light of the Eleventh Circuit's decision in United States v. Vail-Bailon, 868 F.3d 1293 (11th Cir. 2017), the court vacated its prior panel opinion and substituted this opinion, which has been revised only in Section II.D. The court denied defendant's motion for panel rehearing as moot. The court held that because the district court correctly counted defendant's felony battery conviction under Florida Statute 784.04 as a violent felony, defendant therefore had at least three prior violent felony convictions and the imposition of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) enhancement was required. The court affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After the Florida Supreme Court rejected petitioner's appeal from the denial of his guilt stage ineffective assistance claim on remand, he filed in federal district court a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of relief, holding that the district court relied on evidence that had not even been before the Florida Supreme Court in the first appeal from the denial of state collateral relief. In this case, petitioner did not raise a cumulative error claim, but the district court granted relief based on the cumulative effect or combined impact, of defense counsel's errors at the penalty phase and sentencing phase. The court held that the Florida Supreme Court did not unreasonably deny petitioner relief and the district court erred in granting habeas relief. View "Reaves v. Secretary, Florida DOC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim involving the failure to challenge the quantity of methamphetamine attributed to petitioner. Because there was nothing in the trial record to contradict petitioner's allegations, at this stage of the proceedings, the court must accept that unusable liquids were counted in calculating the drug quantities that determined his mandatory minimum sentence and his advisory guidelines base offense level. The court also must accept that the liquids could not have produced any more than 2.4 grams of methamphetamine. The court held that counsel's failure to challenge the weight calculations amounted to deficient performance, particularly because the drug quantities were the basis of petitioner's mandatory minimum sentence and higher guidelines range. Furthermore, counsel's deficient performance prejudiced petitioner. View "Griffith v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against five ADOC officials. Plaintiff alleged that the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (ASORCNA) and the ADOC classification manual violated his procedural due process, substantive due process, and ex post facto rights. The court held that the district court did not err in dismissing the procedural due process claim because he was convicted of a crime that constituted a sex offense under Alabama law at the time of his conviction and thus was not entitled to any additional process before being classified as a sex offender by prison officials. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to raise a cognizable substantive due process claim and ex post facto claim. View "Waldman v. Alabama Prison Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief in a capital case where petitioner was convicted of three murders. The court held that the Florida Supreme Court's decision to exclude evidence related to an alternative perpetrator was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established law and the district court correctly denied relief. In this case, petitioner sought to admit into evidence testimony from a death row inmate who claimed to have received and then destroyed a letter in which the lynchpin witness who put him on death row allegedly confessed to the triple homicide petitioner was accused of. The court explained that it was not hard to understand why the trial court was skeptical of this story. The court also rejected petitioner's claim that counsel was ineffective during the penalty phase of trial. View "Pittman v. Secretary, FL DOC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his 210-month sentence, arguing that he was entitled to resentencing pursuant to Johnson v. United States. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the portion of the district court's judgment determining that petitioner's section 2255 motion was untimely because it raised only a claim pursuant to Descamps v. United States. The court held, however, that the district court's conclusion that petitioner's section 2255 motion also did not assert a Johnson claim was erroneous. On the merits of the Johnson claim, the court held that petitioner failed to prove that but for the residual clause he would have received a different sentence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of the motion. View "Beeman v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence agents found in an outbuilding adjacent to defendant's main residence while they were executing a warrant for defendant's arrest. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the search of the adjacent outbuilding was reasonable for two independent reasons: (1) the search was a reasonable entry pursuant to the arrest warrant; and alternatively (2) the search qualified as a valid protective sweep. Finally, the court held that there was no merit to defendant's newly raised argument that the evidence found in the outbuilding should have been suppressed because the arrest warrant executed at "approximately" 6:00 a.m. was invalid. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendants Larry and Dixie Masino were indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added predicate offenses to Count Two, operating an illegal gambling business. The Eleventh Circuit declined to exercise pendant jurisdiction over Larry's cross-appeal of a denial of a motion to dismiss the indictment; Count Two of the indictment was legally sufficient to state an offense; because a violation of the Florida bingo statute could satisfy the essential element about state law required to prove Count Two, the court need not address Florida gambling house statutes as a basis for upholding the indictment; and thus the indictment stated the essential element about state law because the bingo statute provides at least some violations that would make a gambling business illegal. Accordingly, the court dismissed the cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction, reversed the order dismissing part of Count Two of the indictment, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Masino" on Justia Law