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 convictions and sentences for three counts of Hobbs Act robbery, one count of carjacking, and four counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of those crimes of violence. The court rejected defendant's evidentiary claims of error, holding that the admission of eyewitness identification did not violate due process and there was no abuse of discretion in admitting a music video of defendant's rap song.In regard to defendant's conviction for Hobbs Act robbery, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give defendant's substantively incorrect jury instruction and the evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude that defendant's robbery affected interstate commerce. The court also held that Section 403 of the First Step Act does not apply to defendant's offenses, and thus 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(C) required the district court to impose consecutive 25-year minimum sentences for defendant's convictions on Counts Four, Six, and Eight. Finally, the court held that defendant's 1,105-month sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment for being grossly disproportionate in light of his crime and was substantively reasonable where the district court considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors and did not abuse its discretion. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant on plaintiff's Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim. In this case, plaintiff, a prisoner, told defendant, a prison official, that another prisoner threatened to kill him.The court held that the reasonableness of a prison official's response to a substantial risk of serious harm depends on the facts the official knew when she learned about the threat. The court explained that sometimes, the facts are so serious and clear that anything less than immediate protective custody for the threatened prisoner would be unreasonable. More often, as here, the court explained that the prison official responds reasonably by taking the time to investigate the threat and look into different options all while making sure the prisoners are being supervised.The court agreed with the district court that, viewing the summary judgment evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, defendant reasonably responded to the other prisoner's threat (even if the harm was ultimately not averted). In this case, defendant was available to talk to plaintiff about the threat and told him she had his back, would investigate the threat, and look into moving the other prisoner. Furthermore, her response was reasonable in light of what she knew about plaintiff and the other inmate, the history of their dispute, and the fact that both plaintiff and the other prisoner were in the "good behavior dorm." View "Mosley v. Zachery" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion seeking to vacate his sentence. In this case, the parties do not dispute that counsels' performance was deficient because of their failure to communicate petitioner's potential total sentence and the application of the sentencing guidelines, failure to seek a negotiated plea, and failure to relay to petitioner the plea offers discussed. However, the court held that petitioner failed to show that, but for counsels' deficient performance, the results of his criminal proceedings would be different. Therefore, petitioner failed to satisfy the second prong of the Strickland analysis by establishing prejudice. View "Carmichael v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's 480 month sentence for receipt of child pornography. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that there was sufficient indicia of reliability for the hearsay evidence at issue; the district court's above-guidelines sentence fit comfortably under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) provisions; and defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable in light of defendant's repeated acts of sexual abuse of children over a period of at least two decades. View "United States v. Hall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for attempted online enticement of a minor and six counts of attempted transfer of obscene matter to a minor. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress statements he made while questioned in his house because he was not in custody at the time; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of count 7, the attempted transfer of obscene matter to a minor; and the court rejected defendant's contention that the six counts were flawed because they did not specify which of the 67 images and which of the three videos he sent were obscene. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions. View "United States v. Deason" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two counts of using a deadly weapon to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with a federal officer. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to give defendant's requested "forcibly" jury instruction, use of a deadly weapon instruction, and lesser included offense instruction. The court also held that the district court's response to the jury's question -- regarding whether a car is still a deadly weapon if you do not intend to use it that way -- correctly stated the principle of law. Finally, the court held that evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction and there was no error in the district court's denial of defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on count two of the indictment. View "United States v. Gumbs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence and held that USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) applies if the government proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knew, intended, or had reason to believe (rather than hoped, wished, or dreamed) the gun was going to be used to buy drugs, and the sale would have (rather than may or might have) happened but for the defendant's arrest or something else getting in the way. In this case, the district court found that defendant intended that his stolen shotgun would be bartered for a pound of dope. Therefore, the court held that the district court's finding was supported by the evidence and was not clearly erroneous. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 as untimely. The court held that its decisions in Hall v. Secy, Dep't of Corr., 921 F.3d 983, 988–90 (11th Cir. 2019); Green v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 877 F.3d 1244, 1247–49 (11th Cir. 2017), issued after the district court dismissed the petition, foreclosed the government's arguments.Hall and Green held that the one-year limitations period tolled the day a petitioner filed a procedurally noncompliant Rule 3.850 motion if he was permitted to and did later file a compliant motion. Therefore, a compliant Rule 3.850 motion relates back to the date of filing of a noncompliant motion, such that the compliant motion was "properly filed" and "pending" as of that date for purposes of tolling the limitations period in section 2244 of Title 28. In this case, because the limitations period tolled on the date of petitioner's initial motion, the court held that he timely filed his petition in federal court. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Bates v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Approximately 25 years after his guilty plea to resisting a police officer with violence, an IJ found petitioner removable and ruled he was no longer eligible for cancellation of removal on account of the stop-time rule.The Eleventh Circuit held that it was error to retroactively apply the stop-time rule to petitioner's pre-Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) conviction. The court found no clear congressional statement that the stop-time rule should be applied retroactively to pre-IIRIRA plea agreements like petitioner's and held that in the circumstances presented here—specifically, where petitioner's pre-IIRIRA plea agreement did not render him immediately deportable—applying the stop-time rule to his 1995 conviction would have an impermissibly retroactive effect. Therefore, the court reversed the BIA's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Rendon v. U.S. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The court held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions, and that the indictment was plainly sufficient. The court rejected defendant's two evidentiary claims, holding that the district court did not err in permitting an FBI forensic accountant to testify as a lay witness or in allowing a government witness to testify as an expert. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motions for continuance; there was no cumulative error requiring reversal; and the district court did not clearly err in calculating the loss amount and thus the guidelines range. View "United States v. Chalker" on Justia Law