Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. 2254 petition for habeas relief. The court held that it was error for the trial court to give an instruction that had the effect of removing the defense of self-defense from the case, but the error was not fundamental. The court interpreted the Second District Court of Appeal decision rejecting petitioner's ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim as having been based on the theory that while the forcible felony exception instruction was error, it was not fundamental error and, as a result, the direct appeal court would not have decided that claim on the merits if appellate counsel had raised the claim. In the alternative, the court did not believe that the instruction was fundamental error under Florida law. View "Pinkney v. Secretary, DOC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court engaged in a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the record and acted within its discretion in finding that petitioner was competent to proceed as he saw fit and rationally chose to abandon his federal habeas appeal. Although petitioner's counsel filed a second notice of appeal, petitioner chose to dismiss all appeals, discharge counsel, and proceed with execution. The court could discern no clear error in the district court's determination and affirmed the district court's judgment and dismissal of the appeal. View "Eggers v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for panel rehearing, granted defendants' motion for publication of the opinion, vacated its prior opinion, and substituted the following opinion. Plaintiff filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988 and Florida law, alleging claims of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, battery/unnecessary force, and malicious prosecution, arising from Lieutenant Smith's arrest of plaintiff. A jury returned a verdict for defendants and the district court denied plaintiff's motion for new trial. The court held that the district court abused its discretion in not asking the jury plaintiff's proposed voir dire question, which was: "Do you harbor any biases or prejudices against persons who are gay or homosexual?" Given the pretrial documentation concerning plaintiff's homosexual relationships, and the characterization of the altercation that led to his arrest as a domestic dispute, the risk that latent, undiscovered prejudices may have influenced the jury's verdict was substantial. Furthermore, the error was not harmless. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Berthiaume v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants in an action alleging excessive force against Daniel Hammett. Hammett was shot and killed by an officer in a confrontation during the course of executing a warrant. The court held that plaintiff failed to produce evidence that suggested the "split-second judgments" of officers violated the Fourth Amendment as they responded to the "tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving" events of the day. In this case, the actions of Defendant Horsley and Whitener were objectively reasonable and Defendant Mayfield was entitled to summary judgment because his bullet did not strike Hammett. View "Hammett v. Paulding County, Georgia" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit withdrew its prior opinion and issued this opinion in its place. The court affirmed the district court's denial of petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 habeas petition and held that the state court's denial of his Brady claim was entitled to deference under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and that the state court's denial was neither an unreasonable determination of the facts nor an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. View "Rimmer v. Secretary, FL DOC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of a petition for habeas relief based on the ineffective assistance of counsel at the guilt phase of petitioner's trial. Petitioner alleged that she was denied effective assistance because a revolving door of trial attorneys, collectively, left her unable to muster an adequate defense. The state court deemed her challenge procedurally defaulted. Although the court did not rule out that an ineffective assistance of counsel claim could be based on the lack of continuity of counsel, and the court agreed that petitioner could show cause why she failed to raise her claim at the appropriate time in state court, the court concluded that petitioner could not demonstrate that the lack of continuity of counsel prejudiced her case. Therefore, petitioner could not overcome the procedural default and could not demonstrate a meritorious claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Harris v. Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections" 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, alleging that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance in the investigation and presentation of mitigation evidence during his penalty phase proceedings. The court held that the state court's denial of petitioner's ineffective trial counsel claim was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, nor was it based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. In this case, petitioner has not shown a reasonable probability that, had he presented all mitigating evidence, the outcome of the proceedings would have been different. The court explained that petitioner's claims about his counsel's investigation were immaterial and irrelevant to the prejudice analysis. View "Krawczuk v. Secretary, FL DOC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a complaint alleging that prison staff were deliberately indifferent to Blair Mitchell's serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The court held that, because he alleged a total lack of hepatitis treatment and the resulting onset of cirrhosis, Mr. Mitchell's complaint falls within the imminent-danger exception to the three strikes provision. In the alternative, because the district court did not comply with the procedural requirements necessary for imposing sanctions, it abused its discretion in dismissing Mr. Mitchell's complaint as a sanction. The court held that the complaint stated a claim for a deliberate indifference and there was no alternative basis on which to affirm the district court's dismissal. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Warden" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit granted the State's motion to vacate the district court's certification of appealability and denied petitioner's stay of execution. Petitioner contended that his federal Due Process, Equal Protection, and Eighth Amendment rights were violated by the state court's failure to give retroactive effect to (1) Chapter 2017-1, a revised version of Florida Statute 921.141 (Florida's capital sentencing statute), and (2) the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Hurst v. Florida. The court assumed without deciding that the current petition was not a second or successive one for purposes of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) purposes, and held that the Florida Supreme Court's rejection of petitioner's constitutional-statutory claim was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, the holding of a Supreme Court decision. View "Lambrix v. Secretary, DOC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the school board's policy governing public comment at its meetings. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part the district court's grant of a permanent injunction based on plaintiff's facial claims and enjoined the school board's public comment policy. The court held that it had appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1); plaintiff had standing to pursue his facial unbridled-discretion claim; the court vacated the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on all claims other than the facial unbridled-discretion claim; the court held that the lack of a time limit for scheduling an initial meeting effectively granted the Superintendent unbridled discretion in contravention of the First Amendment; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a permanent injunction. Because the court affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment with respect to only the facial unbridled-discretion claim, the district court must alter the scope of the injunction on remand so that the injunction remedies only the harm created by the unconstitutional grant of unbridled discretion. The court affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion for extension of time and remanded. View "Barrett v. Walker County School District" on Justia Law