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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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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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The Cook County circuit court found sections of the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/5-101(3), 5-605(1) unconstitutional as applied to Destiny who was 14 years old when she was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon. The court held that these sections, which do not provide jury trials for first-time juvenile offenders charged with first-degree murder, violated the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions, but rejected the defense argument that these sections were unconstitutional on due process grounds. On direct appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the due process challenge but reversed with respect to equal protection. Destiny cannot show that she is similarly situated to the comparison groups: recidivist juvenile offenders charged with different crimes and tried under one of two recidivist statutes. These are the only classes of juvenile offenders who face mandatory incarceration if adjudicated delinquent and the legislature has denied a jury trial only to the former. The two classes are charged with different crimes, arrive in court with different criminal backgrounds, and are tried and sentenced under different statutes with distinct legislative purposes. Due process does not mandate jury trials for juveniles. View "In re Destiny P." on Justia Law

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Rozsavolgyi filed a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against the city of Aurora. Rozsavolgyi had been employed by the city from 1992 until she was involuntarily discharged in 2012. Months later, Rozsavolgyi was notified that she had the right to commence a civil action. Rozsavolgyi filed suit, alleging civil rights violations under the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101, including failure to accommodate her disability, disparate treatment, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The circuit court certified three questions for permissive interlocutory review to the appellate court under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308. After the appellate court addressed each question Rozsavolgyi obtained a certificate of importance under Rule 316 as to one question: Does the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1, apply to a civil action under the Human Rights Act where the plaintiff seeks damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and costs? If yes, should the court modify, reject or overrule its prior holdings that the Tort Immunity Act applies only to tort actions and does not bar actions for constitutional violations? The Illinois Supreme Court vacated and remanded the appellate court’s response. The question is “improperly overbroad, should not have been answered, and does not warrant” review. The question ignores the breadth of the Human Rights Act, which provides for numerous types of civil actions for unlawful conduct in a variety of contexts. View "Rozsavolgyi v. The City of Aurora" 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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In 2005, Saxon was convicted in Illinois state court of the 1995 first-degree murder of a 12-year-old girl, arson, and concealment of homicide. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. After his state appeals were exhausted, Saxon sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The state’s case included testimony from 15 witnesses, numerous stipulations and exhibits. The victim’s mother testifed that Saxon was at her house almost every day, and was there the night the girl disappeared. Saxon’s aunt testified that she had lived at the residence with the garage in which the victim’s burned body was found before the fire and that Saxon frequently visited. By the time police obtained a search warrant for a sample of Saxon’s blood in 2000, Saxon was serving a 10-year prison sentence following a conviction for the sexual assault of his nephew. Saxon’s blood sample showed that his DNA matched the DNA profile found on the sperm fraction found on the victim’s body. Eventually, Saxon admitted that he had sex with the victim. The evidence was sufficient to find Saxon guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes charged was not objectively unreasonable. View "Saxon v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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A local government violated the Establishment Clause when it displays and maintains on public property a 40-foot tall Latin cross, established in memory of soldiers who died in World War I. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court's judgment and held that the monument has the effect of endorsing religion and excessively entangles the government in religion. The court explained that the Latin cross is the core symbol of Christianity. In this case, the cross is 40 feet tall; prominently displayed in the center of one of the busiest intersections in Prince George's County, Maryland; and maintained with thousands of dollars in government funds. The court held that the purported war memorial breaches the "wall of separation between Church and State." View "American Humanist Assoc. v. Maryland-National Capital Park" on Justia Law