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During seven weeks in 2002, Malvo (then 17 years old) and Muhammad, the “D.C. Snipers,” murdered 12 individuals, inflicted grievous injuries on six others, and terrorized the area with a shooting spree. The two were apprehended while sleeping in a car. A loaded rifle was found in the car; a hole had been “cut into the lid of the trunk, just above the license plate, through which a rifle barrel could be projected.” At the time, a Virginia defendant convicted of capital murder, who was at least 16 years old at the time of his crime, would be punished by either death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. A jury convicted Malvo of two counts of capital murder but declined to recommend the death penalty. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment without parole. Malvo later pleaded guilty in another Virginia jurisdiction to capital murder and attempted capital murder and received two additional terms of life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court subsequently held that defendants who committed crimes when under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death; cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole unless they committed a homicide that reflected their permanent incorrigibility; and that these rules were to be applied retroactively. The Fourth Circuit concluded that Malvo’s sentences must be vacated because the retroactive constitutional rules for sentencing juveniles were not satisfied. The court remanded for resentencing to determine whether Malvo qualifies as a rare juvenile offender who may, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility” or whether those crimes instead “reflect the transient immaturity of youth,” so that he must receive a lesser sentence. View "Malvo v. Mathena" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit held that the political question doctrine barred an action brought by United States military personnel, civilian contractors, and surviving family members against KBR for injuries allegedly caused by KBR's waste management and water services across Iraq and Afghanistan. The court held that the action presented a political question because the military's control over KBR was plenary and actual under the first Taylor v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Servs., Inc., 658 F.3d 402, 408–409 (4th Cir. 2011), factor. The court need not reach the Federal Tort Claims Act preemption issue and thus affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "Metzgar v. KBR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress after he conditionally pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court held that officers had reasonable suspicion of ongoing criminal activity when they seized defendant. In this case, officers were entitled to rely on the information provided by the first caller as noted in the call for service report: that a white male wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt was at RJ's, carrying a concealed weapon, and drinking. Furthermore, the officers corroborated several key facts from the first caller's tip before seizing defendant. Finally, the district court's racial remarks did not prejudice defendant. View "United States v. Kehoe" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the EPA failed to perform its nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Water Act to promulgate pollutant limits for biologically impaired waters in West Virginia. The court held that plaintiffs have standing to bring the claim, but reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiffs. In this case, because West Virginia has demonstrated that it is making — and will continue to make — good-faith efforts to comply with SB 562, and because West Virginia has a credible plan in concert with the EPA to produce ionic toxicity total maximum daily loads, if the constructive submission doctrine were to apply, it would not be satisfied. View "Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Inc. v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against defendants, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, holding that, although the district court erred in determining a law enforcement officer did not violate plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity because the constitutional violation was not clearly established when the incident occurred. In this case, plaintiff was shot by the officer because he was suspected of breaking and entering and battery, and the officer was aware of these crimes before interacting with plaintiff; plaintiff was standing about 20 feet from the officer holding a knife, inflicting harm on himself and stumbling, but not threatening others or making sudden movements; and plaintiff was refusing to obey the officer's repeated commands to drop the knife at the time he was shot. The court also affirmed the court's judgment on the common law intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the officer and on the respondeat superior claim asserted against the County. View "Wilson v. Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of WTVR's motion for a directed verdict in a defamation action. Plaintiff filed suit against WTVR after it aired a news story about a county school system hiring a felon, in this case plaintiff, that lied about a prior criminal conviction on a job application. The court held that plaintiff was a public official, the allegedly defamatory statements related to her official conduct, and thus she was required to prove that WTVR acted with actual malice to succeed on her claim. Furthermore, the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff presented insufficient evidence that WTVR made the defamatory statements with actual malice. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's pre-trial motion to compel WTVR to disclose the identity of its confidential source where she did not provide a sufficiently compelling interest in the identity of the source to overcome competing First Amendment concerns. View "Horne v. WTVR, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the BIA's decision affirming the IJ's order of removal based on petitioner's prior convictions for theft. The court held that the Maryland theft statute was not divisible and the modified categorical approach was inapplicable in this case, and not all of the offenses encompassed under the relevant Maryland statute qualified as crimes involving moral turpitude. Accordingly, the court vacated the BIA's decision and remanded for consideration of petitioner's application for cancellation of removal. View "Leyva Martinez v. Sessions" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, eight substantive counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and four substantive counts of money laundering and aiding and abetting. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in applying the vulnerable victim sentencing enhancement, and by calculating the actual loss amount used to justify an eighteen level enhancement. View "United States v. Shephard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The 90-day filing requirement in I.R.C. 6015(e)(1)(A)(ii) is jurisdictional. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the tax court's dismissal of a petition for relief based on lack of jurisdiction. The court held that the tax court correctly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the untimely petition and declined to consider petitioner's additional arguments about equitable tolling, which were all predicated on subsection (e)(1)(A) being a non-jurisdictional filing deadline. View "Nauflett v. Commissioner of IRS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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Optometrists across the country noticed that Chase Amazon Visa credit card accounts had been fraudulently opened in their names, using correct social security numbers and birthdates. The victims discussed the thefts in Facebook groups dedicated to optometrists and determined that the only common source to which they had given their personal information was NBEO, where every graduating optometry student submits personal information to sit for board-certifying exams. NBEO released a Facebook statement that its “information systems [had] NOT been compromised.” Two days later, NBEO stated that it had decided to further investigate. Three weeks later, NBEO posted “a cryptic message stating its internal review was still ongoing.” NBEO advised the victims to “remain vigilant in checking their credit.” Victims filed suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d)(2). The district court dismissed for lack of standing. The Fourth Circuit vacated. These plaintiffs allege that they have already suffered actual harm in the form of identity theft and credit card fraud; they have been concretely injured by the use or attempted use of their personal information to open credit card accounts without their knowledge or approval. There is no need to speculate on whether substantial harm will occur. The complaints contain allegations demonstrating that it is both plausible and likely that a breach of NBEO’s database resulted in the fraudulent use of the plaintiffs’ personal information. View "Hutton v. National Board of Examiners in Optometry, Inc." on Justia Law