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In 2001, Sherman died from gunshot wounds. When police arrived, Sherman lay on the ground with 50-60 people gathered around. Long was tried for first-degree murder. No physical evidence tied Long to the crime. The state presented four witnesses; two recanted at trial. In closing argument, the prosecutor made improper statements, resulting in a new trial. At Long’s second trial, the state again presented the four eyewitnesses. One maintained her identification of Long. Two, having previously recanted, continued to deny having seen Long shoot Sherman, despite their prior videotaped statements. The prosecutor failed to correct Irby when she claimed that she had not previously stated that her identification was coerced; defense counsel impeached that testimony. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made comments that no evidence was presented that another individual committed the crime and referenced the contents of a letter written by Irby that had not been admitted into evidence. The jury found Long guilty. His state court appeals and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Long’s federal habeas petition, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claims procedurally defaulted and that Long had not shown a reasonable likelihood that Irby’s testimony or the closing argument prejudiced the outcome; and that Long’s ineffective assistance claim was without merit. “[W]hat occurred [Irby's testimony] may well have helped the defense rather than the prosecutor.” View "Long v. Pfister" on Justia Law

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Anthony Jones's parents filed suit against the Police Department and all of the officers involved in the restraining, tasing, and resulting death of Jones. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on all claims. At issue on appeal were the claims against Officers Hatten and English. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to give plaintiffs a reasonable opportunity to substitute the proper party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17 and thus cure the defective complaint. The panel also held that a jury could reasonably conclude that the officers knew or should have known that their use of tasers created a substantial risk of serious injury or death, and thus there were triable issues of fact as to whether the officers' continuous and simultaneous tasing was reasonable under the circumstances, and whether the officers were on notice that the force they used could cause serious injury or death. Furthermore, there was clearly established Fourth Amendment law at the time of the tasing and a jury could reasonably conclude that the officers used excessive force. Therefore, the court reversed as to this issue. The panel affirmed as to the Fourteenth Amendment claim and the false arrest/imprisonment claims, but remanded as to the state law battery and negligence claims. View "Jones v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept." on Justia Law

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Defendant Kathleen Stegman was convicted by a jury of two counts of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008. Stegman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 51 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The district court also ordered Stegman to pay a $100,000 fine, plus restitution in the amount of $68,733. Stegman established several limited liability corporations pertaining to a “medical aesthetics” business she owned, using these corporations to effectively launder client payments. As part of this process, Stegman would use the corporations to purchase money orders, typically in denominations of $500 or less, that she in turn used to purchase items for personal use. In 2007, Stegman purchased 162 money orders totaling $77,181.92. In 2008, she purchased 252 money orders totaling $121,869.99. And in 2009, she purchased 157 money orders totaling $73,697.31. Notably, Stegman reported zero cash income on her federal income tax returns during each of these years. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Stegman of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008 (Counts 4 and 5), as well as evading corporate taxes for the tax years 2008 and 2009 (Counts 1 and 2). The jury acquitted Stegman of evading corporate taxes for the tax year 2010 (Count 3). The jury also acquitted Stegman and Smith of the conspiracy charge (Count 6). Stegman moved for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court granted the motion as to the two counts that related to the evasion of corporate taxes (Counts 1 and 2), but denied the remainder of the motion. In doing so, the district court chose to acquit Stegman of the corporate tax evasion counts not due to a lack of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this corporation evaded taxes,” but rather because “the indictment itself was flawed in attributing the loss as due and owing by Ms. Stegman, when actually it was due and owing by the corporation.” Stegman raised five issues on appeal, four of which pertain to her convictions and one of which pertained to her sentence. Although several of these issues require extensive discussion due to their fact-intensive nature, the Tenth Circuit concluded that all of these issues lacked merit. View "United States v. Stegman" on Justia Law

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On April 9, Montmorency County jail nurse Sigler interviewed Shane, arrested for driving on a suspended license. Shane complained that he was “bipolar,” “paranoid,” had “panic attack[s]” and had a history of substance abuse. Sigler noted the need for a mental health evaluation and for a referral for “emergency treatment” “on discharge.” She returned Shane to the general population. Shane requested another meeting and described himself as anxious, paranoid, tense, unable to sleep, and experiencing “severe rage.” Sigler telephoned Pilarski, a nurse specializing in mental health. Pilarski recommended Benadryl and a follow-up appointment. Sigler scheduled Shane for a May 2 appointment. The center offered an earlier appointment, but a deputy would be on vacation at that time and transportation would be difficult. She recorded that Shane “denies suicide.” At an April 17 meeting, Sigler noted that he was less anxious. On April 19, he reported that he was afraid he would hurt others and that he had scraped his hands punching the wall. Hoping to schedule an earlier appointment, Sigler called Pilarski but could not reach her. Shane hanged himself in the shower on the night of April 22-23. In his parents’ action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the court granted the county summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Sigler's claim of qualified immunity. A triable issue of fact remains over whether Sigler violated Shane’s clearly established Fourteenth Amendment right to sufficient treatment for a serious medical problem. View "Bays v. Montmorency County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari, vacated the district court's judgment, and remanded for further consideration in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). The Eighth Circuit applied the categorical approach and held that petitioner's prior conviction for use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime under 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) is not a predicate offense under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The court held that section 924(c)(3) is not divisible where a judge decides whether an underlying offense constitutes a crime of violence, and the definition of crime of violence as it is used in section 924(c)(1) is contained in a separate statutory section, section 924(c)(3). Furthermore, petitioner's substantial rights were affected. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in applying a four-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2K2.1(b)(6)(B). Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Boman" on Justia Law

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Convicted of multiple counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and attempted sex trafficking, 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) and 1594(c), Sawyer was sentenced to 50 years' incarceration. After unsuccessful appeals, Sawyer sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel, stating that “the Government offered the Petitioner a plea offer, which included a term of imprisonment of 15 years” and that counsel advised him to reject it because “the Government’s case against him was weak.” Sawyer attached affidavits from his mother and grandmother, in which they attest to discussing the plea offer with Sawyer. The government argued that Sawyer’s petition failed to provide sufficient evidence that the government made him an offer. The district court denied Sawyer’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, noting that Sawyer did not attach a proposed plea agreement or an affidavit from trial counsel regarding any agreement. The Seventh Circuit vacated. If he is able to prove on remand that the government did offer a plea deal, Sawyer will have to establish that his attorney’s advice was objectively unreasonable and that, with competent advice, he would have accepted the plea deal, but at this point in the proceedings, Sawyer has sufficiently alleged both of those required elements. View "Sawyer v. United States" on Justia Law

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Terry Pitchford was convicted of capital murder in February 2006 and sentenced to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Pitchford thereafter filed a motion for leave to file a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing, inter alia, he had not received a competency hearing in violation of Rule 9.06 of the Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Practice. The Supreme Court granted Pitchford’s motion in part and ordered the trial court to conduct a retrospective competency hearing. Before the hearing was conducted, a majority of the Supreme Court held that retrospective competency hearings did not satisfy the purpose of Rule 9.06. Despite this ruling, Pitchford’s retrospective competency hearing took place in May 2015. The trial court found that Pitchford was competent to stand trial in February 2006 and denied Pitchford’s PCR motion. Pitchford appealed, arguing the retrospective competency hearing was: (1) an inadequate remedy for purposes of Rule 9.06; and (2) the State’s experts did not apply the proper standard for competency to stand trial. Finding no merit to these claims, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court denying the PCR petition. View "Pitchford v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Kendall Martin was convicted of possession of more than one kilogram of marijuana with intent to distribute. He was sentenced as a subsequent drug offender and as a nonviolent habitual offender to sixty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Martin argued that the trial court erred by admitting the evidence because the initial traffic stop was not based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and the stop was unreasonably extended in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Martin also argues that the State failed to prove that he was a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81, and that the trial court erred in sentencing him as such. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Martin’s conviction and sentence. View "Martin v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In Pavan v. Smith, 137 S. Ct. 2075 (2017), the United States Supreme Court held that Arkansas’s birth-certificate law, Ark. Code Ann. 20-18-401, is unconstitutional to the extent it treats similarly-situated same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples. The Court thus reversed the judgment of the Arkansas Supreme Court and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion of the Court. The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court, which “impermissibly rewrote the statutory scheme” and remanded for entry of a final judgment consistent with the mandate of the United States Supreme Court. On remand, the circuit court should award such relief as necessary to ensure that same-sex spouses are afforded the same right as opposite-sex spouses to be listed on a child’s birth certificate in Arkansas, as required under Pavan v. Smith. View "Smith v. Pavan" on Justia Law

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This case centered on a public records request made by defendant Oregonian Publishing Company, LLC (The Oregonian), a newspaper, to plaintiff Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), a public health and research university that provided patient care at its hospital, conducted research, and educated health care professionals and scientists. The circuit court ordered OHSU to disclose the requested record, and OHSU appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the circuit court to examine the public records at issue and then determine whether state and federal exemptions permitted OHSU to withhold some of the requested information. On review, the issues narrowed to whether the requested record contained “protected health information” and student “education records” under federal and Oregon law and, if so, whether that information nonetheless had to be disclosed pursuant to ORS 192.420(1), a provision of the Oregon Public Records Law (OPRL). The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the requested record contained protected health information and that ORS 192.420(1) did not require the disclosure of that information. The Court declined to consider whether the part of the requested record consisting of tort claim notices filed by students contained “education records,” and, if so, whether those records were exempt from disclosure. The Court therefore reversed in part, and affirmed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "OHSU v. Oregonian Publishing Co., LLC" on Justia Law