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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion to vacate his conviction under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A) and the corresponding sentence. The court held that petitioner pleaded guilty to using or possessing a firearm in relation to and in furtherance of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery does not satisfy section 924(c)'s definitions of "crime of violence." The court explained that neither an agreement to commit a crime nor a defendant's knowledge of the conspiratorial goal necessitates the existence of a threat or attempt to use force. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "Brown v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit denied petitioner's application for leave to file a second or successive motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his federal sentence. The court held that Rehaif v. United States did not announce a new rule of constitutional law but rather clarified the requirements of 18 U.S.C. 922(g) and 924(a)(2), and the Supreme Court did not make Rehaif retroactive to cases on collateral review. The court also held that petitioner failed to identify any newly discovered evidence to support his Double Jeopardy claim, and the cases he cited did not support the claim. View "In re: Joseph Demond Wright" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's orders dismissing petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and denying his motion for reconsideration. The court held that, even if petitioner intended for his third federal habeas petition to be filed under section 2241 and not section 2254 -- an argument he never made in the district court -- he still needed this court's authorization before filing the petition, and the district court still needed to dismiss the petition because he failed to obtain that authorization. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the dismissal. View "Holland v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit vacated its prior opinion and issued the following revised opinion. The court affirmed defendants' sentences under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) and USSG 4B1.2(a), holding that defendants' Alabama second-degree and third-degree robbery convictions were predicate offenses under the ACCA where Alabama's statutory scheme utilized the same use-of-force element for all three degrees of robbery. Furthermore, the court's decision in In re Welch, 884 F.3d at 1324, held that force sufficient to overcome the victim's resistance was enough to make an offense a violent felony under the ACCA. The court also held that the district court properly relied on the Sixth Circuit's decision in Chaney v. United States, 917 F.3d 895, 900 (6th Cir. 2019), in holding that the Michigan carjacking conviction was a violent felony under the ACCA, in the absence of any Michigan cases holding that "putting in fear" could be accomplished without force or threatened use of force. Finally, the court held that Defendant Hall's sentence was not substantively unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. View "United States v. Hunt" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint and denied his emergency motion for a stay of execution as moot. The court rejected plaintiff's challenge to Georgia's requirement that a prisoner show he acted with due diligence in filing his motion, and Georgia’s requirement that the favorable DNA testing results create a reasonable probability that he would have been acquitted had those results been available at trial. The court also held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's as-applied due process claim because, to the extent he made the challenge in his complaint, he expressly disavowed it in his reply to the State's motion to dismiss; even if the argument were not waived, it was foreclosed by circuit precedent; and the claim amounted to an assertion that the state court misapplied state law, which, without more, did not violate the federal Constitution. Finally, the court held that, because plaintiff failed to identify a cause of action that meets the actual injury requirement for a claimed denial of access to the courts, the district court properly dismissed his access to the courts claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Cromartie v. Shealy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 210 month sentence imposed after he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that defendant's prior conviction for attempted first-degree assault under Alabama Code 13A-6-20(a) qualifies as a violent felon under the Armed Career Criminal Act's (ACCA) elements clause. Furthermore, regardless of whether defendant pleaded guilty to attempted first degree assault under section 13A-6-20(a)(1) or (a)(2), either offense qualifies as an ACCA violent felony under the elements clause. Because defendant did not challenge the district court's determination that he has two other prior convictions for serious drug offenses, the court held that the district court did not err in concluding that defendant had the requisite three predicate convictions to sustain an ACCA-enhanced sentence. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed the denial of his motions to suppress evidence found in two separate, warrantless searches of his motel room. A gun was discovered in the first search, and drugs and associated paraphernalia were discovered in the second search. The Eleventh Circuit held that defendant did not abandon his motel room when he ran and thus he had Fourth Amendment standing to challenge the officers' initial entry and the ensuing protective sweep, which they conducted within 10 minutes of his flight. However, defendant's constitutional challenge to the officers' entry and sweep failed on the merits, because the officers reasonably believed that defendant was in the room and thus they had authority to enter the room to execute the arrest warrants, to conduct a limited protective sweep, and to seize the gun found in plain view. In regard to the second search, which officers carried out with the consent of hotel management after 11:00 a.m., the court held that defendant lost any reasonable expectation of privacy in his room at checkout time. Therefore, he did not have Fourth Amendment standing to contest the search. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "United States v. Ross" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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On remand from the Supreme Court in light of Rehaif v. United States, 139 S. Ct. 2191 (2019), the Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and held that he could not establish that errors affected his substantial rights. Defendant argued that Rehaif made plain that errors occurred when his indictment failed to allege, his jury was not instructed to find, and the government was not required to prove that he knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm. The court held, however, that the record established that defendant knew of his status as a felon and thus he could not prove that the errors affected his substantial rights or the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of his trial. View "United States v. Reed" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences for Hobbs Act robbery, knowingly carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and knowingly possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court erred by limiting his cross-examination of an FBI Task Force Officer, denying his motion to suppress pre- and post-Miranda statements, dismissing count three of the original indictment without prejudice, and denying his motions for judgment of acquittal in both trials. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions and his cumulative error claim lacked merit. Finally, the court held that the district court did not procedurally err in calculating defendant's advisory guidelines range during both of his sentencing proceedings. View "United States v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief to petitioner, who was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death. The court held that the Georgia state habeas court's fact-finding was not entitled to deference in the pre-Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 regime. In this case, the state habeas court adopted verbatim the state's proposed order; offered no guidance to the Assistant Attorney General drafting the proposed order; did not review the order, other than signing it, dating it, and changing the concluding sentence, notwithstanding the glaring errors it contained; and did so ex parte without so much as affording petitioner a chance to challenge any of it or propose an alternative order. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that petitioner's trial lawyers' conduct fell beneath an objective standard of reasonableness when they failed to adequately investigate whether petitioner suffered from organic brain damage at the time of the killing. In light of the substantial evidence petitioner demonstrated showing that he suffered from organic brain damage, the court held that the district court did not err in finding that petitioner had been prejudiced by his lawyers' deficient performance. View "Jefferson v. GDCP Warden" on Justia Law