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Defendant Howard Payton was convicted for the 2010 kidnapping and rape of a university student. At trial, inter alia, the State presented definitive scientific evidence of guilt: Payton’s DNA matched the DNA sample obtained from N.B.’s rape kit so closely that the probability of finding someone other than Payton with the same DNA profile was less than one in 999 trillion. It was not until January 25, 2016, that Payton filed a twelve-page pro se motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or, in the alternative, a new trial. The State did not raise the untimeliness of the motion. In fact, the State did not respond to the motion. The trial judge considered the substantive issues raised in the motion and, finding no merit, denied Payton’s requests for relief one week later on February 1, 2016. Payton made five filings regarding appealing his motion for JNOV. On March 9, 2016, the trial court granted Payton in forma pauperis status; at that time, he was appointed counsel who entered an appearance on Payton's behalf. A few days before the appeal brief was due, however, Payton died. Appellate counsel moved for abatement ab initio, asking. He asked that the Court allow a thirty-day period or other reasonable amount of time to allow any personal representative of Payton to come forward and to move for a substitution for the deceased appellant. If no such motion was made, counsel requested the Court enter an order of abatement voiding the entire criminal proceeding against Payton from its inception, nullifying the petit jury’s verdict and the circuit judge’s judgment of conviction and remanding the case back to the same trial court with instructions to dismiss the grand jury’s indictment, all without notice to the victim. "Because of the increased recognition of crime victims in our constitution and statutory law, and because the policies undergirding stare decisis are not served by continued application of the abatement ab initio doctrine, we expressly overrule Gollott [v. Mississippi, 646 So.2d 1297 (1994)]." Since no motion was filed for substitution pursuant to Rule 43(a), the Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Payton’s appeal as moot and left his conviction intact. Appellate counsel's motion to abate Payton’s conviction ab initio was denied. View "Payton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Michael Dalton was convicted by a jury of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Dalton challenged his conviction on several evidentiary grounds; the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with only one: that the district court should have excluded the evidence the government obtained during the second search of Dalton’s residence that occurred in this case, which the Court concluded was unlawful. The police conducted the second search of Dalton’s residence pursuant to a warrant that permitted the officers to search for firearms and firearm paraphernalia based on: (1) the officers’ discovery of an AK-47 in Dalton’s car; (2) their knowledge that Dalton could not lawfully possess firearms as a previously convicted felon; and (3) their knowledge from training and experience that, frequently, persons who have firearms in their vehicles also have firearms in their homes. However, after the officers obtained the search warrant but before they executed it, the officers discovered that someone other than Dalton had been driving Dalton’s vehicle with the AK-47 in it, which, when combined with the other facts the officers knew, made it materially less likely that firearms and firearm paraphernalia would be found in Dalton’s residence. Nonetheless, the officers conducted the search. The Tenth Circuit concluded the second search was not supported by probable cause. However, it determined the inclusion of the evidence discovered in the second search at Dalton’s trial was harmless error. Therefore, the Court affirmed Dalton’s conviction. View "United States v. Dalton" on Justia Law

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On petition for rehearing, the Eleventh Circuit held, as an initial matter, that a meaningful comparator analysis must be conducted at the prima facie stage of McDonnell Douglas's burden-shifting framework, and should not be moved to the pretext stage. With regard to the McDonnell Douglas standard, the court held that the proper test for evaluating comparator evidence is neither plain-old "same or similar" nor "nearly identical," as the court's past cases have discordantly suggested. The court held that a plaintiff asserting an intentional-discrimination claim under McDonnell Douglas must demonstrate that she and her proffered comparators were "similarly situated in all material respects." Because the plaintiff in this case failed to do so, the court remanded to the panel for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. City of Union City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree robbery and aiding, abetting, or advising first-degree robbery stemming from two separate cases, holding that any error in the proceedings below was harmless. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictments for violation of his statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial; (2) Defendant’s waiver of Miranda rights and subsequent statements were voluntary, knowing, and intelligent; and (3) although Defendant invoked his right to an attorney, his unambiguous request occurred after he had confessed to the crimes, and therefore, the detectives’ error in continuing the interview after that point was harmless, and the circuit court’s failure to exclude Defendant’s post-invocation statements was also harmless. View "State v. Two Hearts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendants’ convictions of murder in the first degree by reason of extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony-murder and declined to exercise its authority under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E to grant a new trial or to reduce the verdicts, holding that no prejudicial error occurred. The defendants in this case were Alexander Gallett and Michel St. Jean. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed their convictions, holding (1) the motion judge did err in failing to suppress statements that Gallett made to police during his interrogation; (2) there was sufficient evidence to support St. Jean’s murder conviction; (3) St. Jean was not prejudiced by the admission of statements from Gallett’s redacted police interrogation; (4) the judge did not err in denying St. Jean’s requests for various jury instructions; (5) the trial judge did not improperly invoke juror sympathy; (6) there was no prejudicial error in limiting the cross-examination of certain witnesses; and (7) it was not reversible error for the judge to decline to give a humane practice jury instruction. View "Commonwealth v. Gallett" on Justia Law

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Garcia was convicted of distributing a kilogram of cocaine to co-defendant Cisneros, 21 US.C. 841. The government offered no direct evidence that Garcia possessed or controlled cocaine, drug paraphernalia, large quantities of cash, or other unexplained wealth. There was no admission of drug trafficking by Garcia, nor any testimony from witnesses that Garcia distributed cocaine. Instead, the government secured this verdict based upon a federal agent’s opinion testimony purporting to interpret several cryptic intercepted phone calls between Garcia and Cisneros, a known drug dealer. In those calls, the defendants talked about "work" and a "girl" in a bar, and made statements like “the tix have already walked more that, that way.” The Seventh Circuit reversed, stating that: This case illustrates the role trial judges have in guarding the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases. While the government’s circumstantial evidence here might have supported a search warrant or perhaps a wiretap on Garcia’s telephone, it simply was not sufficient to support a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for distributing cocaine. View "United States v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Based upon an informant’s tip and some “largely unproductive surveillance activity,” two Wilmington police detectives applied for a warrant to search Lamont Valentine’s apartment and automobile for evidence that Valentine, a convicted violent felon, was in possession of a firearm or ammunition. A magistrate issued the warrant, and when the officers conducted the search, they found marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and ammunition in the apartment and a firearm in the vehicle. These discoveries and other information provided by another resident of the apartment building resulted in numerous criminal charges against Valentine, including possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, drug dealing, aggravated possession of marijuana, terroristic threatening, and conspiracy. Valentine moved to suppress the fruits of the search on the grounds that the warrant affidavit and application did not establish probable cause that he had committed or was committing the offense of unlawfully possessing a firearm or that evidence of that crime was likely to be found in his apartment or car. The Superior Court denied the motion, and Valentine was eventually convicted of drug dealing, aggravated possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and endangering the welfare of a child. He appealed to challenge the Superior Court’s denial of his suppression motion. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court agreed with Valentine that the warrant application was insufficient to support a finding of probable cause that he had committed or was committing the crime identified in the warrant, or that a firearm was in his apartment or car. Accordingly, Valentine’s convictions were reversed. View "Valentine v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a federal civil rights action against defendants, alleging numerous federal constitutional violations and a disparate impact claim under the Fair Housing Act. Almost simultaneously, the city filed a nuisance complaint in state court against plaintiffs and the city filed a motion for abstention, or in the alternative, a motion to dismiss the federal action. The county filed a nearly identical motion the next day. The district court granted both the city and the county's motions, concluding that abstention was appropriate under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971). Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly abstained under Younger in every aspect, except with respect to the allegedly unreasonable search, which must be severed from the other claims. In this case, Younger abstention was appropriate as to all claims except the unreasonable search claim, because success by plaintiffs on such claims would invalidate the code enforcement proceeding. In regard to the unreasonable search claim, the district court erred in abstaining because the relief sought on alleged Fourth Amendment violations did not meet the Court's requirement that the relief have the practical effect of enjoining the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Herrera v. City of Palmdale" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the officers' motion for summary judgment in an action alleging that police officers violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments when they stole plaintiffs' property after conducting a search and seizure pursuant to a warrant. The panel held that it need not, and did not, decide whether the officers violated the Constitution. Rather, the panel held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because, at the time of the incident, there was no clearly established law holding that officers violate the Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment when they steal property that is seized pursuant to a warrant. The panel noted that five other circuits had addressed the issue of whether the theft of property covered by the terms of a search warrant and seized pursuant to that warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. However, in the absence of binding authority or a consensus of a persuasive authority on the issue, the panel held that it was not clearly established that the officers' alleged conduct violated the Fourth Amendment. Likewise, plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claim failed. View "Jessop v. City of Fresno" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Philadelphia police found drugs and a gun in an apartment that they thought was Randall’s. They arrested Randall. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office charged him but dropped all the charges in August 2015. When he was arrested in Philadelphia, he was already on probation in New Jersey and Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Hearing about his arrest, both jurisdictions issued detainers for him. After dropping the charges, Pennsylvania released Randall into New Jersey’s custody. He remained in custody, first in New Jersey and then in Delaware County, until December 24, 2015. On December 26, 2017, Randall sued the Philadelphia Law Department and the police officers who had arrested him under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed Randall’s claims as time-barred. The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting Randall’s “continuing-violation” argument. Section 1983 borrows the underlying state’s statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. In Pennsylvania, that period is two years. When a Section 1983 claim accrues is a matter of federal law, under which a malicious-prosecution claim accrues when criminal proceedings end in the plaintiff’s favor. For Randall, that happened in August 2015, so he had until August 2017 to file his suit unless something tolled the statute of limitations. The continuing-violation doctrine focuses on continuing acts, not continuing injury. No Philadelphia defendant detained Randall beyond August 2015. View "Randall v. Philadelphia Law Department" on Justia Law