Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for filing three false tax returns and obstructing a grand jury proceeding. The court held that the district court properly instructed the jury on the nexus requirement. However, the jury's determinations pursuant to that instruction were based on the substantial evidence presented at trial. Therefore, because the jury was properly instructed and found defendant guilty based on ample and substantial evidence, the court upheld his conviction. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions related to the course of his trial. View "United States v. Sutherland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After the district court dismissed a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for being untimely filed, it granted a certificate of appealability as to whether the one-year limitations period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) for filing the section 2254 petition was tolled by petitioner's state court motion to reduce sentence under Rule 4-345 of the Maryland Rules. In light of Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545 (2011), the Fourth Circuit held that the limitations period was tolled during the pendency of the Maryland Rule 4-345 motion. Like a motion to reduce sentence under Kholi's Rhode Island Rule 35, the court explained that a Maryland Rule 4-345 motion to reduce sentence was not part of the direct review process and undoubtedly called for review of the sentence. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Green" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Respondents, Mississippi death row inmates, filed suit challenging the state's lethal injection procedures under the Eighth Amendment. Respondents sought discovery by serving a subpoena on the VDOC. The VDOC provided some documents and then moved to quash the subpoena in district court. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the VDOC's motion to quash the subpoena on the merits, holding that the district court reasonably found that respondents did not have a need for further discovery from the VDOC, a nonparty, that outweighed the burdens the discovery would impose. Accordingly, the court need not reach the state sovereign immunity issue. View "Virginia Department of Corrections v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for ten offenses of money laundering conspiracy, substantive money laundering, and related charges of obstruction of justice. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his role as the "consigliere" of an elaborate multi-state marijuana trafficking organization. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress tapes of inculpatory recorded conversations with drug dealers; the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant on each of the ten counts; the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting certain evidence from the lawyer-witnesses; the district court's willful blindness instruction did not entitle defendant to any relief from his money laundering convictions; and the district court's supplemental instruction with respect to a jury note was not impermissibly coercive. View "United States v. Farrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's determination that defendant violated the conditions of his supervised release and sentence of twenty months in prison. The court held that because supervised release revocation proceedings are not criminal proceedings, the introduction of unwarned admissions made by defendant to his probation officer did not violate his rights under the Self-Incrimination Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, because the proceedings were not criminal, the government was not required to present evidence corroborating defendant's admissions. View "United States v. Riley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Petitioner filed suit challenging the Director's repeated denial of parole to petitioner. The district court granted the Director's motion to dismiss, holding that juvenile-specific Eighth Amendment protections do not apply to petitioner because he was sentenced to life with parole, and that the Parole Board procedures satisfied procedural due process requirements under the Fourteenth Amendment. Reading petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition as a 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint, the Fourth Circuit declined to extend the Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence to juvenile parole proceedings and find that it is cruel and unusual punishment for a parole board to deny juvenile offenders parole without specifically considering age-related mitigating characteristics as a separate factor in the decisionmaking process. In regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court held that, although there was no constitutional or inherent right to parole proceedings, Virginia law gives rise to an expectation of parole proceedings that has created a liberty interest in parole consideration. The court held that, nevertheless, to satisfy the due process requirements triggered by this liberty interest, a parole board need only provide an offender an opportunity to be heard and a statement of reasons indicating why parole has been denied. In this case, petitioner's parole proceedings satisfied those requirements. View "Bowling v. Director, Virginia Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment charging him with the crime of illegal reentry. United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828 (1987), held that an administrative removal proceeding marred by due process defects that foreclosed judicial review could not serve as a basis for criminal conviction. Determining that the district court had jurisdiction to consider defendant's argument, the court held that, even assuming that Mendoza-Lopez permitted a constitutional challenge, defendant's claim failed at a more basic level because he failed to assert a due process violation that would render the adjudication of his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) application fundamentally unfair. View "United States v. Guzman-Velasquez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendants' conviction of crimes related to their participation in illegal activities in a street and prison gang known as the Black Guerrilla Family. The court rejected defendants' contention that the district court improperly handled the fears some jurors expressed after learning of the gang's predilection for violence and retaliation, and held that the trial judge made reasoned judgments in walking the line between detecting bias and creating bias. The court also held that the district court had broad discretion in evaluating the significance of potential juror bias and the trial judge acted well within its discretion in denying a mistrial. The court rejected defendants' claim that the district court should have excluded an FBI agent's expert testimony decoding intercepted calls, and held that there were no Confrontation Clause problems with the agent's testimony. Nevertheless, any error would have been harmless. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after he pleaded guilt to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of distributing heroin. Defendant was sentenced to 57 months in prison in part because his criminal history included a prior sentence of thirty days' imprisonment for an uncounseled misdemeanor offense. The court held that the district court properly counted defendant's prior voluntarily uncounseled misdemeanor offense, because defendant voluntarily proceeded without counsel in the prior proceeding and thus his misdemeanor conviction was constitutionally valid. View "United States v. Hawley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for distribution of over 50 grams of methamphetamine. The court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting an out-of-court statement made by a confidential informant, an officer's photographs, and a recording of a telephone conversation between the informant and defendant. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable, and the district court adequately explained its decision to credit the testimony of defendant's coconspirators about drug quantities despite the acquittal on the conspiracy count. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law