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During seven weeks in 2002, Malvo (then 17 years old) and Muhammad, the “D.C. Snipers,” murdered 12 individuals, inflicted grievous injuries on six others, and terrorized the area with a shooting spree. The two were apprehended while sleeping in a car. A loaded rifle was found in the car; a hole had been “cut into the lid of the trunk, just above the license plate, through which a rifle barrel could be projected.” At the time, a Virginia defendant convicted of capital murder, who was at least 16 years old at the time of his crime, would be punished by either death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. A jury convicted Malvo of two counts of capital murder but declined to recommend the death penalty. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment without parole. Malvo later pleaded guilty in another Virginia jurisdiction to capital murder and attempted capital murder and received two additional terms of life imprisonment without parole. The Supreme Court subsequently held that defendants who committed crimes when under the age of 18 cannot be sentenced to death; cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole unless they committed a homicide that reflected their permanent incorrigibility; and that these rules were to be applied retroactively. The Fourth Circuit concluded that Malvo’s sentences must be vacated because the retroactive constitutional rules for sentencing juveniles were not satisfied. The court remanded for resentencing to determine whether Malvo qualifies as a rare juvenile offender who may, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because his “crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility” or whether those crimes instead “reflect the transient immaturity of youth,” so that he must receive a lesser sentence. View "Malvo v. Mathena" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over constitutional limits on the governor’s power to make recess appointments, the Court of Appeals held that a provision in the state budget bill passed by the general assembly that precluded two gubernatorial appointees from being paid a salary exceeded the authority of the legislature was was invalid and unenforceable. In 2016, the governor appointed the two appointees as secretaries for two departments. The governor withdrew his nomination of the appointees during the 2017 legislation session but later reappointed the two secretaries. Anticipating that prospect, the general assembly passed a provision in the state budget bill forbidding payments to administration appointees who were nominated but not confirmed by the Maryland Senate. The cabinet secretaries filed suit demanding pay for their work. The circuit judge ruled that the governor had the authority to make the two recess appointments and ordered the treasurer to pay the cabinet secretaries. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that the appointees were entitled to be paid the salaries set forth in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the times they served as secretaries of their respective departments and for entry of an order enjoining the state from interfering with the payment of those salaries. View "Kopp v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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At issue was how to assess the validity of a stipulation entered into by Defendant, through counsel, that admitted all of the elements of a charged crime, making it tantamount to a guilty plea, when Defendant was neither advised of, nor expressly waived, his privilege against self-incrimination or his rights to a jury trial and confrontation. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal’s judgment affirming Defendant’s conviction of misdemeanor driving when his driver’s license was suspended or revoked. The Court held (1) the test set forth in People v. Howard, 1 Cal.4th 1132 (1992), that a plea is valid notwithstanding the lack of express advisements and waivers if the record affirmatively shows that it is voluntary and intelligent under the totality of the circumstances applies in cases where there is a total absence of advisements and waivers; and (2) applying that test, the record failed affirmatively to show that Defendant understood his counsel’s stipulation had the effect of waiving Defendant’s constitutional rights. View "People v. Farwell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of the first degree murder of a twelve-year-old boy, finding true the special circumstance that the murder was committed while Defendant was engaged in the commission of a lewd and lascivious act on the child, and sentencing Defendant to death. Specifically, the Court held (1) there was not substantial evidence of Defendant’s present incompetence that required the trial court, on its own motion, to declare a doubt and conduct a competence hearing during the penalty phase of trial; (2) Defendant’s constitutional challenge to the death penalty for mentally ill defendants was unavailing; (3) there was sufficient evidence of first degree murder and sufficient evidence to support a true finding on the special circumstance allegation; (4) Defendant’s argument that the trial court erred in excluding testimony regarding the victim’s relationships lacked merit; (5) the challenged jury instructions were not improper; (6) there was no reasonable possibility that the prosecutor’s comments during the penalty phase affected the jury’s verdict; and (7) Defendant’s challenges to California’s death penalty scheme failed. View "People v. Ghobrial" on Justia Law

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The trial court did not err in admitting Defendant’s incriminating statements made in a motel room during the course of a custodial interrogation without an electronic recording of those statements. Defendant was charged with and convicted of several drug crimes. On appeal, Defendant argued that two post-Miranda self-incriminating statements he made to officers in a motel room should not have been admitted into evidence because no electronic recording of the statements was made available at trial, as required by Ind. R. Evid. 617. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that a motel room, as used by law enforcement in this case to carry out an undercover investigation and to search a suspect incident to his arrest, is not a place of detention as defined by Rule 617. View "Fansler v. State" on Justia Law

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New York law provides that a court may order that a person who has information material to a criminal proceeding be detained to secure her attendance at the proceeding, N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 620.10–50. In 2008, McKinnies, a New York Police Officer, was under investigation for potential insurance fraud. McKinnies’ car, which she had reported stolen, had turned up in a “chop shop” covertly run by the NYPD. McKinnies stated her friend “Alexandra Griffin” was the last person to drive her car. But “Alexandra Griffin” stated that she had never been given the vehicle, did not have a driver’s license, and that her surname was Simon. Her real name is Dormoy, she is Simon's daughter. Simon was twice taken to the precinct and held for a total of 18 hours over two days. Simon sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming false arrest and imprisonment. Simon alleged that the warrant, on its face, directed officers to bring Simon to court at a fixed date and time for a hearing to determine whether she should be detained as a material witness. Simon was never presented to the court. The district court held that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and granted summary judgment in their favor. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. With the facts taken in the light most favorable to Simon, the defendants violated Simon’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights and are not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Simon v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Kenosha used Comsys as its information-technology department. Comsys had its offices inside City Hall and stored its electronic information on the City’s servers. Their contract automatically renewed from year to year unless terminated, and provided that either party “shall have the right, with or without cause, to terminate the Agreement by written notice delivered to the other party at least twelve (12) calendar months prior to the specified effective date of such termination.” In 2014, hostilities broke out between the parties: a Comsys employee because a city employee with plans to bring the IT department in-house and there were allegations of stolen email and a search of the servers. The City’s Common Council voted to end the contract. The Mayor delivered formal notice days later. The contract ended a year later. Comsys sued, alleging First and Fourth Amendment violations. The district court dismissed several claims on the pleadings and dismissed the Council’s members on the ground of legislative immunity but denied motions for summary judgment on the First and Fourth Amendment claim and official immunity claims by the Mayor, City Administrator, and the City Manager. The Seventh Circuit reversed as to those officials, finding that they did not violate clearly established law and cannot be ordered to pay damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and noting that trying to isolate contract administration from speech may be impossible in this situation. View "Comsys Inc. v. Pacetti" on Justia Law

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Norton was part of a cocaine and heroin distribution conspiracy, driving to Chicago and Akron to move drugs and proceeds, and distributing drugs at his Indiana home. Law enforcement recruited a conspiracy member to record conversations; the informant stated that Norton planned to move $400,000 of drug proceeds. Federal officers contacted Indiana State Police Officer Shultz for a traffic stop. Federal officers trailed Norton for 20 miles, identified Norton’s vehicle to Shultz, told Shultz that Norton was driving 72 mph in a 55 mph construction zone, and instructed Shultz to make the stop. Shultz testified that he used radar to confirm Norton's speed. Shultz pulled Norton over. Norton allowed Shultz to search his car. Shultz found an unusual wire near the gas pedal and a shell casing. His drug-sniffing dog signaled to the vehicle. Shultz did not arrest Norton, but impounded the vehicle. After obtaining a warrant, officers conducted a thorough search, discovering $400,000 in cash. Months later, officers arrested Norton in a house near the Mexican border, where they found $179,000 in cash. At a hearing on Norton’s motion to suppress evidence collected from his vehicle, an Indiana Department of Transportation employee testified that the speed limit in the construction zone was 70 mph at the time of the stop. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Norton’s conviction and sentence to a mandatory life term of imprisonment, upholding the denial of his motion to suppress and the admission of recorded statements made by the confidential informant. View "United States v. Norton" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant, Anthony Esparza Cortez, Jr., a convicted felon, and his friend, Michael Saavedra, conspired to commit murder against Rene Perez, and his son-in-law, Alvino Barrera. While defendant drove, Saavedra fired a gun at Perez and Barrera in another car. Defendant and Saavedra then drove to the home of Guadalupe Valle, Perez’s relative by marriage. Armed with a rifle and a handgun, defendant and Saavedra fired more than 30 bullets into the house, which was occupied by 10 people. Defendant admitted having possession of the rifle used in the shooting, and of an assault rifle which is banned in California, as well as several rounds of ammunition. A jury convicted defendant of five charges: conspiracy to commit murder; being a felon in possession of a firearm; possessing firearms ammunition while prohibited from possessing a firearm; assault with a firearm; and possessing an assault weapon. The court sentenced defendant to an aggregate, determinate term of 29 years four months, followed by an indeterminate term of 25 years to life. On appeal, defendant claimed: (1) the trial court erred in not instructing the jury sua sponte on conspiracy to commit assault with a firearm and conspiracy to shoot at an inhabited dwelling as lesser included offenses of conspiracy to commit murder as charged; (2) the trial court erred in denying his requested self-defense instruction; (3) substantial evidence did not support the jury’s finding that defendant personally and intentionally discharged a firearm in the commission of conspiracy to commit murder; and (4) four sentencing errord, which the State conceded. The Court of Appeal remanded this matter to the trial court for the purpose of permitting the trial court to exercise its discretion as to whether to strike defendant’s firearm enhancement, and to make the other corrections to defendant’s sentence. In all other regards, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "California v. Cortez" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was when public school students are entitled to Miranda warnings at school. B.A., who was thirteen years old, was escorted from a school bus and questioned in a vice-principal’s office in response to a bomb threat on a bathroom wall. Three officers wearing police uniforms hovered over B.A. and encouraged him to confess. B.A. moved to suppress the evidence from his interview, arguing that he was entitled to Miranda warnings because he was under custodial interrogation and officers failed to secure waiver of his Miranda rights under Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute, Ind. Code 31-32-5-1. The juvenile court denied the motion and found B.A. delinquent for committing false reporting and institutional criminal mischief. The Supreme Court reversed B.A.’s delinquency adjudications, holding (1) B.A. was in police custody and under police interrogation when he made the incriminating statements; and (2) therefore, B.A.’s statements should have been suppressed under both Miranda and Indiana’s juvenile waiver statute. View "B.A. v. State" on Justia Law