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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of deliberate homicide and two counts of attempted deliberate homicide, holding that Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not appropriately considered on direct appeal. On appeal, Defendant argued that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to irrelevant, highly prejudicial evidence concerning his criminal past in two video interviews admitted at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment without prejudice to Defendant raising his ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a postconviction relief proceeding, holding that the record was not sufficient to address Defendant's claim on direct appeal. View "State v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The court held that the district court erred in substituting a previously unidentified conviction to sustain petitioner's career offender designation. Petitioner claimed ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's failure to challenge his designation as a career offender. In this case, the district court found that one of the predicate offenses identified by the State did not qualify as a crime of violence and thus could not support a career offender designation, but nevertheless found no prejudice from counsel's error. The district concluded that the career offender designation could be supported by another conviction in petitioner's record, even though the State did not identify this conviction as a basis for the designation at sentencing. View "United States v. Winbush" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to WCI on all of plaintiff's claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The court held that the district court erred by finding that plaintiff, who is black, had failed to establish an appropriate comparator and to produce evidence of pretext. In this case, plaintiff produced evidence that a white employee with the same supervisor, who had several workplace infractions, was permitted to return to his job after the employee became angry and yelled at his supervisor before quitting. The court held that the record as a whole could permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that plaintiff and that employee were proper comparators. Furthermore, plaintiff has produced evidence that WCI's reason for his termination has changed substantially over time, and therefore has presented sufficient evidence of pretext. View "Haynes v. Waste Connections, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of operating under the influence, holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained from a blood draw and that the court's jury instructions were sufficient and appropriate. Prior to trial court, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence from the blood draw and the corresponding blood-alcohol test result, arguing that the evidence was obtained without valid consent. The trial court denied the motion. After closing arguments, Defendant requested a curative instruction to remedy the State's alleged misstatement of the evidence in its closing argument. The court declined to give such an instruction. The jury subsequently found Defendant guilty of operating under the influence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant had the capacity to give knowing consent to the blood draw, and his consent was voluntary; and (2) the prosecutor's closing statements to the jury did not misstate the evidence, demonstrate bad faith, or create any prejudice. View "State v. Ayotte" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of Cherry Knoll's complaint against the City of Lakeway, the city manager, and HDR Engineering in a dispute over a plat of land that Cherry Knoll had purchased in Lakeway. Cherry Knoll asserted a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating its rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection by filing the Subdivision Plats without its consent and over its objection. The court held that these allegations satisfied the standard for official municipal policy under Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati and the district court erred in finding otherwise. The court also held that the district court erred in determining that the city manager was entitled to the protection of qualified immunity at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. Finally, the court held that Cherry Knoll's well-pleaded factual allegations and supporting documents make plausible its claim that HDR was a "willful participant in joint action" for purposes of section 1983. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter and reinstated Cherry Knoll's state law claims. View "Cherry Knoll, LLC v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court granted a certificate of appealability on his claim that he has made a showing of actual innocence such that the district court erred in dismissing his petition as untimely. The court held that petitioner failed to meet the exacting standard for the procedural gateway claim of actual innocence. In this case, none of the new evidence identified by petitioner contradicted the evidence of his guilt presented at trial. View "Hayes v. Carver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated Defendant's convictions and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding that multiple instances of improper prosecutorial conduct cumulatively jeopardized Defendant's right to a fair trial. Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and carrying or use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing, among other things, that the circuit court erred in denying his motions for mistrial and motion for a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the cumulative effect of the prosecutor's improper conduct was so prejudicial as to jeopardize Defendant's right a fair trial. View "State v. Pasene" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the probate court's order striking her petition to enforce a no contest clause in a trust under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, and denying her motion to recover attorney fees. The Court of Appeal agreed with the probate court, and with a recent decision by Division Five of this district, that the anti-SLAPP statute applies to a petition such as plaintiff's seeking to enforce a no contest clause. However, the court held that plaintiff adequately demonstrated a likelihood of success under the second step of the anti-SLAPP procedure. In this case, defendant's judicial defense of the 2007 Amendment to the Trust that she procured through undue influence met the Trust's definition of a contest that triggered the no contest clause. Furthermore, under sections 21310 and 21311, that clause was enforceable against defendant. The court also held that plaintiff provided sufficient evidence that defendant lacked probable cause to defend the 2007 Amendment. The court held that the findings of the probate court concerning defendant's undue influence, which this court affirmed, provided a sufficient basis to conclude that plaintiff has shown a probability of success on her No Contest Petition. Finally, the court held that plaintiff had the contractual right to seek reimbursement of her attorney fees incurred in resisting defendant's appeal of the probate court's ruling invalidating the 2007 Amendment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Key v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of possessing child pornography, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motions to suppress the evidence. Defendant uploaded child pornography images to a digital album on Imgur, an image hosting website. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) received a report about the images from an anonymous tipster and informed law enforcement of the images. In his motions to suppress, Defendant argued that the evidence was obtained pursuant to a warrantless search by Imgur, acting at the instigation of NCMEC, and that the computer was searched pursuant to a warrant that lacked probable cause. The district court denied the motions. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining (1) Defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the images he uploaded to Imgur or in his internet protocol address, and (2) the state's warrant to search Defendant's computer was supported by probable cause. View "United States v. Morel" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, eight counts of health care fraud, six counts of aggravated identity theft, and four counts of furnishing false or fraudulent information in prescriptions for controlled substances, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's underlying convictions for aggravated identity theft; (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial; (3) the district court correctly denied Defendant's third motion for a judgment of acquittal as to the charges of furnishing false or fraudulent information for prescriptions in controlled substances; (4) Defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable; and (5) Defendant's pro se challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for his conspiracy and health care fraud convictions and argument that an aspect of the trial violated his Sixth Amendment rights failed. View "United States v. Tull-Abreu" on Justia Law