Criminal Law

Daily criminal law and procedure case summaries, brought to you by
  1. (United States Supreme Court) - In a case involving a capital punishment trial and subsequent appeal where the convicted alleged the ineffective assistance of appeal counsel in failing to raise the issue of a jury instruction to which trial counsel had properly objected, the court held that the ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel does not provide cause to excuse the procedural default of ineffective-assistance-of-appellate-counsel claims.
  2. (United States Supreme Court) - In a criminal case in which defendant was advised by counsel to plead guilty to possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute, an 'aggravated felony' that subjected defendant to removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. section 1101(a)(43)(B), the sentence and conviction are vacated where defendant has demonstrated that he was prejudiced by his counsel's erroneous advice that he would not be deported as a result of pleading guilty.
  3. (United States Second Circuit) - In the appeal of a judgment reducing the prison sentence of a defendant convicted of racketeering and other offenses for his assistance in discovering explosive components related to the Oklahoma City bombing, the government refused to move for a reduction, complaining of the defendant's untruthfulness, and averred that the court misapplied legal standards in determining they could reduce the sentence without a government motion. The court agreed, reversing the decision and remanding the case.
  4. (United States Supreme Court) - In a case involving multiple defendants charged with kidnapping, robbery, and murder, it was alleged that the Government had withheld evidence from defense at the time of trial, but the court upheld the finding that the evidence withheld was not material.
  5. (United States Supreme Court) - In a murder case where a courtroom could not accommodate all the potential jurors, members of the public were excluded from the courtroom, including the petitioner's mother and minister, the petitioner argued ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to object to the courtroom closure. Although the court found that the violation of the right to a public trial was a structural error, the decision was affirmed since the issue wasn't raised on direct review and the court found that the error was not prejudicial and therefore did not entitle the petitioner to a new trial.
  6. (California Court of Appeal) - In an action seeking to seal juvenile records, the juvenile court's denial of the motion is affirmed where: 1) a second assault charge was not a separate case; and 2) assault is among the offenses that disqualify the sealing of records.
  7. (United States Second Circuit) - Conviction for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud are affirmed where over defendant's argument that disclaimers of extra-contract representations did not render salespeople's oral misrepresentations immaterial.
  8. (United States Fourth Circuit) - In a case where the defendant was convicted of drug crimes following the search of a home where they resided with three other people, and their constructive possession of the guns and marijuana at issue was established through the admission of their criminal record, the court found that the failure to establish the admissibility of the prior convictions by proffering any connection between the prior convictions and the charges at issue was an abuse of discretion. The decision was reversed, and the case was vacated and remanded.
  9. (United States Second Circuit) - In the case of a lawful permanent resident appealing the denial of relief due to a NY criminal conviction, the court found that: 1) the NY conviction arose from an indivisible statute, and; 2) applying the categorical approach, determined that it did not constitute an aggravated felony, for which reason they then vacated the finding of ineligibility for relief and remanded for further proceedings.
  10. (United States Fourth Circuit) - In a case where the court added a weapon enhancement to methamphetamine possession and distribution charges based on statements by co-conspirators, the court determined that the government had presented sufficient evidence to support the finding that the defendant possessed a firearm in connection with their drug activities and not for a lawful purpose and affirmed the lower court ruling.
  11. (United States First Circuit) - Conviction of firearms and drugs offenses is affirmed over defendant's argument that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because the court failed to explain the charge at the plea hearing, where the attestations by the defendant and those found in the plea colloquy and other court documents and statements were adequate.
  12. (United States Supreme Court) - Conviction under a North Carolina law that makes it a felony for a registered sex offender 'to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages,' N. C. Gen. Stat. Ann. sections14-202.5(a) and (e), is reversed where the North Carolina statute impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment.
  13. (United States Second Circuit) - Life sentences for convictions of racketeering, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base and five kilograms or more of cocaine, are vacated where the district court erred when it implicitly hinged the defendants' life terms of supervised release on the need for retribution--an imperative that is relevant to fashioning a term of incarceration, but not a term of supervised release.
  14. (United States Supreme Court) - In a putative class action against two classes of federal officials brought by men of Arab or South Asian descent who, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, were detained for periods of three to six months in a federal facility in Brooklyn and later removed from the U.S., alleging violations of Bivens, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. section1985(3), which forbids certain conspiracies to violate equal protection rights, the Second Circuit's judgment affirming in most respects the District Court's decision to allow claims to proceed against the Warden-defendants but reversal as to allow claims to proceed against the Executive Official-defendants is reversed in part and vacated and remanded in part, where: 1) the limited reach of the Bivens action informs the decision whether an implied damages remedy should be recognized here; 2) a Bivens-type remedy should not be extended to the claims challenging the confinement conditions imposed on respondents pursuant to the formal policy adopted by the Executive Officials in the wake of the September 11 attacks; 3) the Second Circuit erred in allowing the prisoner abuse claim against Warden Hasty to go forward without conducting the required special factors analysis; and 4) petitioners are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to respondents' claims under 42 U. S. C. section1985(3).
  15. (Supreme Court of California) - In response to a petition for rehearing filed after the issuance of the court's prior opinion in a criminal case involving kidnapping, torture, and murder charges that resulted in the death penalty, the court vacated the jury's finding that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission of kidnapping due to the trial court's failure to instruct on the independent felonious purpose rule, but affirmed the judgment in all other respects, including the sentence of death.