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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition, but on different grounds. Petitioner was convicted of murdering Eleventh Circuit Judge Robert Vance and sentenced to death. The court held that petitioner had Article III standing to challenge Alabama's exercise of custody given his previously-imposed federal sentences, and that his second claim did not constitute an unauthorized second or successive section 2254 petition. The court held, however, that petitioner's claims failed on the merits. The court's own precedent foreclosed petitioner's substantive assertion that the Alabama execution could not be carried out until the federal sentences of life imprisonment were complete. View "Moody v. Warden Holman CF" on Justia Law

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The legislative amendments to the State Auditor’s responsibilities over audits of Minnesota counties do not violate either the Separation of Powers Clause, Minn. Const. art. III, 1 or the Single Subject Clause, Minn. Const. art. IV, 17. In 2015, a new statute was enacted that governed the State Auditor’s county-audit responsibilities. The statute allowed counties to choose to have the required audit performed by either a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firm or the State Auditor. The State Auditor brought this suit arguing that the statute violated the Minnesota Constitution. The district court concluded that the legislative modification of the State Auditor’s duties was constitutional. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the State’s Auditor’s challenges under the Separation of Powers Clause and the Single Subject Clause failed. View "Otto v. Wright County" on Justia Law

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Enacted in 2016, Ohio Revised Code 3701.034 requires the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to ensure that all funds it receives through six non-abortion-related federal health programs are not used to contract with any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions, or becomes or continues to be an affiliate of any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the entry of a permanent injunction, first rejecting a challenge to Plaintiffs’ standing to assert due process claims. The district court properly applied the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine, which is not limited to First Amendment rights. Although the government has no obligation to subsidize constitutionally protected activity, it may not use its control over funds to curtail the exercise of constitutionally protected rights outside the scope of a government-funded program. Section 3701.034 imposes conditions; does not distinguish between the grantee and the project; does not permit the grantee to keep abortion-related speech and activities separate from governmental programs; does not leave the grantee unfettered in its other activities; and does not permit the grantee to continue to perform abortion and provide abortion-related services through programs that are independent from projects that receive the funds. While finding the “undue-burden analysis” employed in some courts “questionable,” the court concluded that section 3701.034 is unnecessary to advance the interests ODH asserts. View "Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Himes" on Justia Law

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In this commitment-extension proceeding the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s order denying J.M.’s motion for post-disposition relief in which J.M. claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court answered (1) J.M. had a statutory right to effective assistance of counsel in his Chapter 41 commitment-extension hearing, and the Strickland standard is the correct standard for evaluating a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in a commitment-extension hearing; (2) J.M. did not show that a reasonable probability existed that the result of the proceeding would have been different had his trial counsel’s performance not been allegedly deficient regarding J.M.’s appearance in prison garb; and (3) J.M. did not establish that he was entitled to a new trial on the ground that his wearing of prison garb during the trial so distracted the jury that justice was miscarried, and the circuit court’s conflicting jury instructions did not entitle J.M. to a new trial in the interest of justice. View "Winnebago County v. J.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Ohio’s death-penalty scheme does not violate the right to a trial by jury as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Appellant was sentenced to death. The court of appeals remanded the case to the trial court for a new penalty-phase trial. On remand, Appellant moved to dismiss the capital specification from his indictment, arguing that Ohio’s death-penalty scheme is unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst v. Florida, __ U.S. __ (2016). Hurst invalidated Florida’s former capital-sentencing scheme because it “required the judge alone to find the existence of an aggravating circumstance.” The trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Ohio law requires the critical jury findings that were not required by the law at issue in Hurst, Ohio’s death-penalty scheme does not violate a defendant’s right to a trial by jury as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. View "State v. Mason" on Justia Law

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The absolute prohibition against civilian possession of stun guns under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, 131J violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendant was charged with possession of a stun gun, among other crimes. Defendant to dismissed that count of the complaint, arguing that section 131J’s criminal prohibition of the possession of stun guns by civilians violates the Second Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the district court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss and directed the judge to allow the motion, holding (1) stun guns are “arms” within the protection of the Second Amendment and therefore may be regulated but not absolutely banned; (2) consequently, the absolute prohibition in section 131J that bars all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, violates the Second Amendment; and (3) section 131J in its current form is facially invalid. View "Ramirez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Johnson, Every, Green, and Robinson were riding in a truck. Thibodaux Officer Amador recognized Robertson and knew she had an outstanding warrant. He stopped the truck, asked Robertson to exit, and handcuffed her. Every opened her door. Amador told her to get back in; she complied. More officers arrived and asked the passengers for identification. Green said she did not have any, but provided her name. She was not arrested. Johnson and Every refused to identify themselves. The officers arrested them for resisting an officer by refusing to identify themselves during a supposedly lawful detention (Louisiana Revised Statute 14:108) and pulled the women from the truck. Every ran; an officer used his Taser. The officers took the women to jail. They brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The court generally denied motions in limine seeking to exclude the testimony of the city’s experts on orthopedic surgery and on arrest techniques, police procedures, police training, and use of force, but prohibited testimony as to plaintiffs’ drug use, prior incidents with doctors or law enforcement, or the facts. A jury returned a verdict for the officers. The Fifth Circuit reversed as to Johnson’s unlawful arrest claims against four officers but otherwise affirmed. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers may not require identification absent an otherwise lawful detention based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Johnson’s detention lasted longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the stop, without any evidence that would support a finding of reasonable suspicion. View "Johnson v. Thibodaux City" on Justia Law

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In accordance with a written plea agreement, Salas is serving a 288-month federal sentence for trafficking in cocaine and heroin. The Fifth Circuit denied Salas, authorization to file a second or successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion. None of Salas’s proposed claims are based on newly discovered evidence. The court rejected a claim that he is entitled to relief under Burrage v. United States (2014). In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that, in order to apply the mandatory sentence under 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C) for a death resulting from the defendant’s drug trafficking, it is necessary to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the death would not have occurred “but for” the defendant’s conduct. However, Burrage was decided on direct appeal; nothing suggests that the Supreme Court has made Burrage retroactive to cases on collateral review. In addition, the Burrage Court was interpreting a statute and did not announce a new rule of constitutional law. View "In Re: Salas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide, holding that the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument that prejudiced Defendant’s right to a fair trial and warranted plain error review. A jury convicted Defendant of deliberate homicide. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument. Because Defendant did not object to the statements, he sought plain error review. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not demonstrate that failure to review the asserted errors would result in a miscarriage of justice, raise a question about the fundamental fairness of the proceedings, or compromise the integrity of the judicial process. View "State v. Lau" on Justia Law

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The justice court did not err in concluding that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at his jury confirmation hearing. Defendant was found guilty by the justice court of driving while under the influence of alcohol and obstructing a peace officer. On appeal, Defendant argued that the justice court erred in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial when he failed to appear at the jury confirmation hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, the justice court did not err in determining that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial by failing to attend his jury confirmation hearing. View "State v. Sherlock" on Justia Law