The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded with instructions to dismiss petitioner's habeas application with prejudice under the court's decision in United States v. Surratt, 855 F.3d 218 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Petitioner was sentenced to 118 years in prison for nonhomicide crimes that he committed when he was 15 years old. Petitioner sought habeas relief after the Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which prohibited juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicide crimes from being sentenced to life without parole. While the application was pending, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell issued petitioner a partial pardon, reducing his sentence to 40 years' imprisonment. The court reasoned that had the district court properly applied Surratt, it would have been required to conclude that Governor McDonnell's valid partial pardon reducing petitioner's sentence to 40 years' imprisonment rendered his habeas application moot and that the district court was therefore without jurisdiction to address it and opine on the constitutionality of petitioner's original sentence under Graham. View "Blount v. Clarke" on Justia Law
The Juvenile Delinquency Act (JDA), 18 U.S.C. 5031, is intended to ensure that at the time they are brought into the criminal justice process, juveniles will have the benefit of a system that is tailored to their special needs and vulnerabilities and, in particular, to their special receptivity to rehabilitation. In light of this statutory purpose, it is entirely rational to define as juveniles protected by the JDA only those who are younger than 21 when they are indicted. In this case, although defendant was 17 years old when he and another individual robbed a brothel, raping one victim and killing another, he was over 21 years old when he was indicted for the crimes. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that defendant's timing-related arguments were without merit, and that the government established the connection to interstate commerce necessary to sustain a Hobbs Act conviction. The court also found no error in the evidentiary rulings challenged on appeal nor error with defendant's sentence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Lopez" on Justia Law
Appellant challenged the district court's decision to grant the federal government's motion to dismiss the information filed against him in a juvenile delinquency proceeding without prejudice, and its decision to deny Appellant's motion to dismiss the information with prejudice. Appellant also challenged the district court's decision to authorize the federal government to disclose two confidential documents and Appellant's identity to third-parties, contending that the disclosed information should have been kept private. The court dismissed as interlocutory the appeal over the dismissal of the information without prejudice and the denial of Appellant's motion for dismissal with prejudice; affirmed the district court's authorization of disclosure of the confidential documents; and, because the court believed that the controversy surrounding the disclosure of Appellant's identity was moot on appeal, the court vacated the district court's decision to authorize disclosure of that information. View "United States v. Under Seal" on Justia Law
Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for a nonhomicide offense he committed at the age of sixteen. After Graham v. Florida was decided, petitioner sought postconviction relief but the state courts denied it. The court concluded that petitioner's state court adjudication constituted an unreasonable application of Graham where Virginia courts unreasonably ignored the plain language of the procedures governing review of petitions for geriatric release, which authorize the State Parole Board to deny geriatric release for any reason, without considering a juvenile offender’s maturity and rehabilitation. In light of the lack of governing standards, the court concluded that it was objectively unreasonable for the state courts to conclude that geriatric release affords petitioner with the “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation” Graham demands. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of habeas relief and remanded so that petitioner can be resentenced in accordance with Graham and the Eighth Amendment. View "LeBlanc v. Mathena" on Justia Law
Movant was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances and sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without parole. He was 17 years old when the conspiracy began and the conspiracy continued until he had turned 18. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Miller v. Alabama, movant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255(h) seeking authorization to file a successive section 2255 motion. The court denied the motion, concluding that, even assuming that movant qualified as a juvenile offender, his proposed motion would necessarily rely on a right that became available to him in 2010 with the Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Florida, which held that sentencing a juvenile who did not commit a homicide to life imprisonment without parole violated the Eighth Amendment, and not on Miller, which extended the Graham rule to prohibit mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of committing homicide. Because Graham was decided more than one year before movant filed his section 2255(h) motion, the successive section 2255 motion he sought leave to file would be barred by the applicable one year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. 2255(f)(3). View "In re: Tadd Vassell" on Justia Law
Defendant, a juvenile, appealed from the judgment of the district court which imposed, as a condition of his juvenile delinquent supervision, that he register under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 42 U.S.C. 16901 et seq. The court held that the district court did not err by imposing the sex offender registration condition because the court concluded that Congress, in enacting SORNA, intentionally carved out a class of juveniles from the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act's, 18 U.S.C. 5031 et seq., confidentiality provisions, and that SORNA's registration requirements were not punitive as applied to defendant. View "United States v. Under Seal" on Justia Law
Appellees, the parents of a child with moderate-to-severe autism, filed due process proceedings against the Sumter County School District #17 ("District") seeking a determination that the District did not provide a free and appropriate public education ("FAPE") to the child as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(1)(A). At issue was whether the district court erred by concluding that the District failed to provide the child with a FAPE and that the program established by the child's parents to educate him at home was appropriate. The court held that that the district court did not err in concluding that the District failed to provide the child with FAPE for the 2005-2006 school year where the district court considered the evidence of the child's small improvements in a few tested areas against the District's conceded failure to provide the hours of therapy required for the child, the evidence that the lead teacher and aides did not understand or use proper techniques, and the evidence that it took one teacher months of working with the child to correct the problems caused by the improper techniques. The court also held that the district court did not err by finding that the District was not capable of providing FAPE to the child where the District's evidence was not compelling enough to establish it's improved capabilities at the time of the due process hearing. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support the district court's findings that the home placement was reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education Law, Juvenile Law, Public Benefits, U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals