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Plaintiff Coalition for a Livable City (CLC) appealed the denial of its Public Records Act (PRA) and its request to the City of Burlington for an unredacted financial feasibility study provided by a private developer to a contractor hired by the City of Burlington to help the City assess the viability of the developer’s plans. The development plans included some public improvements to be financed with tax dollars. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the redacted information fell under the PRA trade-secrets exemption, and as such, was exempt from disclosure. View "Long v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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An Illinois jury convicted Czech of first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm for his role in a gang-related drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old bystander. Czech argued on direct appeal that his counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the felony murder instruction that was submitted to the jury in conjunction with a general verdict. The Illinois Appellate Court determined that the felony murder instruction violated Illinois law, but concluded the error was harmless. The Supreme Court of Illinois declined further review. The federal district court denied 28 U.S.C. 2254 relief, reasoning that, although the conviction violated clearly established federal law, the error did not have a substantial and injurious effect on the verdict. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In 2004, when the Illinois court affirmed the conviction, no Supreme Court precedent clearly established that a conviction entered on a general verdict was unconstitutional merely because the jury instructions included a legal theory that was invalid under state law Even subsequent law did not expressly hold that instructing a jury on multiple theories of guilt, one of which is legally improper, is a constitutional error. In addition, Czech is not entitled to relief because, even if constitutional error were shown, the error was harmless: a properly instructed jury would have delivered the same verdict. View "Czech v. Melvin" on Justia Law

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On November 22, 1997, around 1:30 a.m., Miles demanded money from brothers Maher and Ziad, outside of Maher’s Cincinnati Save-Way store. The brothers complied but Miles shot them with an assault rifle. Cincinnati police hypothesized that Issa, a Save-Way employee, hired Miles to commit the murders because Linda, Maher’s wife, offered Issa money to kill her husband. The state charged all three with aggravated murder. Miles refused to testify at Issa’s trial although he had testified in Linda’s trial. The prosecution had revoked Miles’s immunity the day before he was to testify. The court concluded that Miles was unavailable and allowed the admission of Miles’s out-of-court statements, through the testimony of siblings who were Miles’s teenage friends at the time of the murders. A jury acquitted Linda; Miles received a life sentence. Issa received a death sentence. In 2003, Issa filed his initial habeas petition. The district court denied relief but granted a certificate of appealability for grounds including failure to call Linda as a witness and admission of the siblings’ testimony about Miles’s hearsay statements. The Sixth Circuit ordered a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The admission of Miles’s hearsay statements violated the Confrontation Clause under then-governing Supreme Court law and was not harmless. The Ohio Supreme Court did not consider the “totality of the circumstances,” which show that the statements are not trustworthy. The statements were the only direct evidence implicating Issa in a murder for hire. View "Issa v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that the evidence credited by the trial court was sufficient to support a Qawi order, which authorizes the California Department of State Hospitals-Atascadero (Hospital or ASH) to involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication to treat defendant's severe mental disorder. In this case, the trial court found that appellant lacked the capacity to refuse medical treatment and issued a Qawi order authorizing the Hospital to involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the finding that the order furthered a compelling government interest that outweighed any religious belief and there was no due process violation in defendant's case. View "California Department of State Hospitals v. A.H." on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Alwin appealed his conviction after a jury found Alwin guilty of felony eluding a peace officer. Alwin moved for a new trial, challenging the district court’s admission of a booking photograph at trial. Alwin argued the booking photograph was evidence of prior criminal conduct in violation of Idaho Rule of Evidence (“I.R.E.”) 404(b). The district court denied his motion. Alwin timely appealed and contended the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial because the district court erroneously admitted I.R.E. 404(b) evidence over his objection when it admitted the booking photograph at trial. Alwin also argued the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments. The Court of Appeals reversed, and the State filed a timely Petition for Review. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in admitting the photograph, did not abuse its discretion in denying a new trial, and found the error committed by the prosecution did not rise to the level of fundamental error. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Idaho v. Alwin" on Justia Law

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Thomas was arrested on charges that she “knowingly attempted to provide material support . . . to a designated foreign terrorist organization,” 18 U.S.C. 2339B. Thomas unsuccessfully moved for a bill of particulars and to compel notice and discovery of surveillance. Thomas pled guilty. Access to several documents on the docket was restricted. Philly Declaration moved to intervene and obtain access to all records on the docket, transcripts of Thomas’s plea hearing and her ex parte presentation to the court regarding the motions, and search warrant materials. The prosecution agreed that certain records should be largely unsealed but maintained that the “Plea Document” that was docketed with the publicly-filed guilty plea memorandum should remain under seal for reasons detailed in a sealed addendum and objected to unsealing a “Grand Jury exhibit” attached to Thomas’s reply brief in support of her motion for a bill of particulars and to unredacting quotes and citations that appeared in the Reply Brief itself. The district court ruled in favor of the government. The Third Circuit affirmed as to the Plea Document, vacated with respect to the Reply Brief and Exhibit, and remanded. While a presumptive First Amendment right of access attaches to plea hearings and related documents, the district court properly concluded that the compelling government interests of national security would be substantially impaired by permitting full access to this plea document. The proposed redactions are properly first considered by the district court. View "United States v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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In December 2017, Reese was charged with using a facility and means of interstate or foreign commerce to attempt to induce, entice, or coerce a minor into engaging in sexual activity. The government sought pretrial detention arguing that there was probable cause to believe that Reese had committed the charged offense, which created a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention, 18 U.S.C. 3142(e)(3)(E). The motion was granted. In February 2018, Reese filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition. In March 2018, Reese, through counsel, moved for pretrial release in the separate criminal case, but before the same judge. That judge denied the motion, concluding that the evidence against Reese was “overwhelming,” that Reese had numerous prior criminal convictions, that Reese had previously violated conditions of bail, and that Reese lacked ties to the community. An appeal of that denial is pending. The court then dismissed the section 2241 petition. The Third Circuit held that a federal detainee cannot challenge his pretrial detention via a section 2241 habeas petition; such a request for release pending trial can only be considered under the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 3141–3150, which provides a comprehensive scheme governing pretrial-release decisions. View "Reese v. Warden Philadelphia FDC" on Justia Law

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In 1990, appellee Daniel Crispell was convicted for first-degree murder, for which he was sentenced to death. Crispell moved for post-conviction relief: he was denied relief on his guilt-phase claims, but granted a new penalty phase after determining that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present mitigating evidence. While his PCRA petition was pending before the PCRA court, Crispell sought leave from the PCRA court to amend his PCRA petition to add a claim pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), premised upon evidence disclosed by the State during discovery. The PCRA court denied leave to amend, concluding on jurisdictional grounds that it lacked discretion to entertain the amendment. In reaching this conclusion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined the PCRA court erred as a matter of law. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the PCRA court to the extent that it denied leave to amend to add the new Brady claim. The Court remanded for reconsideration of Crispell’s request for leave to amend to add this claim. As to all other guilt phase claims, the Court affirmed the PCRA court’s denial of relief. With respect to the Commonwealth’s cross-appeal from the grant of a new penalty phase, the Supreme Court affirmed the PCRA court’s order as its findings were supported by the record and free from legal error. View "Pennsylvania v. Crispell" on Justia Law

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Three exotic dancers under the age of 21 filed suit challenging Louisiana's amendment of two statutes (Act No. 395) that required entertainers on premises licensed to serve alcohol and whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view be 21 years of age or older. The district court concluded that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that the Act was unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, and issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the Act. The Fifth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s determination that the statute failed to comply with time, place, and manner standards on expressive conduct under United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 376 (1968), and that the statute was overbroad. However, the court held that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and the standards for an injunction have been met. In this case, there was a substantial likelihood that plaintiffs would prevail on the merits of their vagueness claim where plaintiffs have shown that the Act had the capacity to chill constitutionally protected conduct, especially conduct protected by the First Amendment. The court held that the Act's vagueness and its resultant capacity to chill protected conduct supported a finding that the remaining injunctive relief requirements were satisfied. View "Doe v. Marine-Lombard" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action alleging that the FBI violated his substantive and procedural due process rights by placing and maintaining him on the No Fly List. While plaintiff's action was pending, defendants removed plaintiff from the list and the district court held that his due process claims were moot. The panel held, however, that the voluntary cessation doctrine applied here and precluded a finding of mootness. In this case, plaintiff's removal from the list was more likely an exercise of discretion than a decision arising from a broad change in agency policy or procedure. Furthermore, the government has not assured plaintiff that he would not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise plaintiff's status on the receipt of new information. Finally, plaintiff's removal from the list did not completely and irrevocably eradicate the effects of the alleged violations. View "Fikre v. FBI" on Justia Law