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The State Executive Clemency Board appealed the district court's orders in favor of appellees James Michael Hand and eight other convicted felons who have completed their sentences and sought to regain their voting rights in Florida. The Eleventh Circuit held that the State Executive Clemency Board has made a sufficient showing under Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009), to warrant a stay. The court explained that the Fourteenth Amendment expressly empowered the states to abridge a convicted felon's right to vote; binding precedent held that the Governor had broad discretion to grant and deny clemency, even when the applicable regime lacked any standards; and, although a reenfranchisement scheme could violate equal protection if it had both the purpose and effect of invidious discrimination, appellees have not alleged -- let alone established as undisputed facts -- that Florida's scheme has a discriminatory purpose or effect. View "Hand v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin law gives state university students rights to organize themselves and to run their governments, which have the power to spend substantial funds. Plaintiffs, the University of Wisconsin Madison (UWM) Student Association and former and current UWM students, alleged a conspiracy to interfere with student governance in violation of various rights protected by 42 U.S.C. 1983. They claim that the UWM administration excluded certain students from student government by unseating the legitimately elected officers and replacing them over several years with a supposedly “puppet” student government with a similar name, the defendant Student Association at UWM. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims against the defendants who were not timely served with process and the dismissal of a right-to-organize claim under state law. The court reversed the dismissal with prejudice of the remaining claims for misjoinder, stating that it could understand the district court’s frustration, but the remedy for misjoinder is severance or dismissal without prejudice. View "UWM Student Association v. Lovell" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a writ of habeas corpus vacating his convictions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that petitioner was not denied due process or access to the courts because he was unable—due to the unavailability of a transcript of his criminal trial—to prove in collaterally attacking his convictions that his trial attorneys rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court held that the state court's decision affirming the collateral-attack court's denial of relief was not contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent. View "Bush v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Cohen, as the president and chairman of companies that sold insurance to those in the entertainment industry, was obliged to submit regular financial statements to insurance regulators. Beginning in 2008, Cohen engaged in a scheme to defraud policyholders and the public. Cohen created fraudulent financial documents and sent fraudulent representations to auditing firms and others, securing favorable opinions on the financial standing of his companies, which received more than $100,000,000 in premiums. Prosecutors secured a 31-count indictment, alleging that Cohen’s arrest upended his intentions to harm public officials. Cohen had purchased a long-range tactical rifle, plus ammunition and a night vision device and had researched homemade bombs, purchased ammonium nitrate and made recordings about plans to attack public officials. As his scheme unraveled, Cohen threatened witnesses. Cohen, who represented himself during most proceedings, eventually pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, making false statements to insurance regulators, and obstruction of justice. Cohen was sentenced to 444 months in prison. The Fourth Circuit upheld Cohen’s appeal waiver and dismissed certain claims. The court rejected, on the merits, claims that the district court erred in failing to conduct a Farmer hearing on his asset seizure allegations and that Cohen’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was contravened by the magistrate’s denial of his request to revoke his pro se status and have a lawyer appointed for his final sentencing hearing. View "United States v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that probable cause existed for the arrest of Appellant and refusing to suppress evidence seized during a warrant-back search of Appellant’s hotel room, despite the officers’ earlier unlawful entry into that room. The Court held (1) the district court did not err in determining that Appellant’s de facto arrest comported with the strictures of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the district court did not err in applying the independent source doctrine to validate the warrant-backed search of Appellant’s hotel room, thus permitting the government to use the evidence obtained as a result of that search, notwithstanding the earlier warrantless entry into that room. View "United States v. Flores" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus. The court held that federal habeas relief was not warranted on petitioner's claim that his Sixth Amendment right to self-representation was violated under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975). The court held that there was no basis to conclude that the Florida Supreme Court's denial of petitioner's Sixth Amendment self-representation claim was either contrary to or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, or that it resulted from an unreasonable determination of the facts. View "Barnes v. Secretary, Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an age discrimination claim. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to admit a Department of Corrections internal investigation report because plaintiff was allowed to elicit the content of the report during her questioning of the Warden and providing the report to the jury would have added little beyond the information already in evidence. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish reversible error in how the district court handled this evidentiary issue. View "Parker v. Arkansas Department of Correction" on Justia Law

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Appellant Crystal Boyett contended the court of appeals erred by upholding the trial court’s denial of her request for a formal determination of her competency to stand trial for manslaughter. Appellant was speeding excessively when she caused a collision with another car that was occupied by three women. Two were killed; one was seriously injured. The State charged appellant with manslaughter for one of the deaths. Appellant pleaded not guilty, and the case proceeded to trial, at which appellant was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The trial court found that there was “not sufficient evidence to support a finding of incompetence,” and it declined to undertake a formal competency trial aided by expert evaluation. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, finding the court of appeals improperly considered evidence of appellant’s competency rather than considering only evidence of her incompetency, and it mistakenly applied a more burdensome evidentiary standard than the “some evidence” standard required by the applicable statute. Because appellant was convicted and sentenced in this case, the case was remanded to the trial court for it to determine the feasibility of a retrospective formal competency trial and, if feasible, to conduct such an inquiry. View "Boyett v. Texas" on Justia Law

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On August 5, 2011, some time after 2 A.M., Adrian Mendez and several friends arrived at Big Man Diesel Repair. The group had spent the evening socializing and consuming a variety of drugs. They were later joined by Roger Guzman and Jacob Castillo, who had also been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Soon thereafter, Mendez and Castillo got into a fight. The men exchanged blows until Mendez drew a knife and stabbed Castillo several times. Castillo was hospitalized and, although his initial prognosis was good, he died two months later due to complications from his stab wounds. The State charged Mendez with murder. The jury acquitted Mendez of murder, but convicted him of the lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. Mendez was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and assessed a $10,000 fine. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sought to resolve a conflict among the lower courts, with some holding that, when a trial court sua sponte issues a defensive jury instruction but fails to apply it to a lesser-included offense, the court commits no error unless the defendant objects. Other courts have held that is error, even if the defendant doesn't object. The Court of Appeals determined the trial court in this case erred in sua sponte charging the jury on the issue of self-defense, and the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed: "[w]hen the trial court charged the jury on the issue of self-defense in the abstract, it thereby declared that issue to be law applicable to the case. The jury was informed under what circumstances it should convict Mendez of aggravated assault. Self-defense being law applicable to the case meant that the trial court should also have informed the jury under what circumstances it should acquit him of that offense." View "Mendez v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Appellant Michael Beaty Jr. was convicted of murdering Emily Asbill (Victim), for which he received a life sentence. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's conviction on December 29, 2016. In affirming Appellant's conviction in its prior opinion, the Supreme Court found two of the issues Appellant raised merited discussion. First, the Court addressed the trial judge's use of certain language in his opening remarks to the jury and the content requirements and order of closing argument. The Court affirmed Appellant's conviction but instructed trial judges to avoid language urging jurors to "search for the truth," find "true facts," and render a "just verdict." Second, the Court adopted a rule for closing argument in criminal cases, requiring the party with the right to open and close to open fully on the law and facts and limit its reply to those matters raised by the other party in its closing argument. The Court affirmed all of Appellant's remaining issues under Rule 220(b), SCACR. The Court then granted the parties' petitions for rehearing and heard further argument. The Court issued this opinion to again address both the trial judge's use of certain language in his opening remarks to the jury and the rules governing the content and order of closing argument. The Court affirmed Appellant's conviction. View "South Carolina v. Beaty" on Justia Law