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This case was reheard en banc after plaintiff obtained a $2.3 million judgment that was reversed and his claims were dismissed. The court held that plaintiff's Brady v. Maryland claim should have been dismissed as a matter of law on summary judgment because the city should not have been subjected to municipal liability for plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim. The court also declined the invitation to disturb its precedent concerning a defendant's constitutional right to Brady material prior to entering a guilty plea. View "Alvarez v. City of Brownsville" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide, holding that the district court violated Defendant’s right to be present but that Defendant failed to demonstrate that the error was prejudicial. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was not included in several sidebars and in-chambers discussions during his trial and that his right of presence was violated twenty-three times. The Supreme Court held (1) the record supported Defendant’s assertion that he was not present in eight instances, but Defendant did not establish plain error in his exclusion from conferences; (2) because the burden was on Defendant to ensure the preservation of an adequate record for appeal, the district court did not err by failing to make a record of the various conferences that occurred during Defendant’s trial; (3) Defendant failed to rebut the State’s position that a violation of the public’s right to know cannot serve as a basis for overturning a criminal conviction; (4) the court did not abuse its discretion by allowing two of the State’s law enforcement witnesses to testify multiple times on direct examination; and (5) cumulative error did not warrant a new trial. View "State v. Hatfield" on Justia Law

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In this criminal matter, the Supreme Judicial Court held that maintaining pending charges against an incompetent defendant where the defendant will never regain competency and where maintaining the charges does not serve the compelling State interest of protecting the public violates the defendant’s substantive due process rights. In 1994, Defendant was charged with murder in the first degree but was deemed incompetent to stand trial. After unsuccessfully filing a series of motions to dismiss and for reconsideration, in 2016, Defendant sought relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Stat. ch. 211, 3 arguing that he was permanently incompetent to stand trial and dismissal of the charges was required. At issue was Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, 16(f), which requires mandatory dismissal of charges at the time when the defendant would have been eligible for parole if he had been convicted and sentenced to the maximum statutory sentence. Defendant argued that the statute should be interpreted to apply to all crimes, regardless of parole eligibility. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, holding that the statute satisfies due process requirements only insofar as it is understood to allow the dismissal of charges, in the interest of justice, where the defendant will never regain competency and does not pose a risk to public safety. View "Sharris v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree on the theory of deliberate premeditation, holding that the judge erred by declining to require an explanation for the prosecutor’s preemptory challenge to a female African-American member of the venire and erred in declining to give Defendant’s requested jury instructions on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter. The shooting that led to the fatality in this case was precipitated by a drug turf war. At the close of the evidence Defendant requested that the jury be instructed on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter, but the request was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) the trial judge abused her discretion by declining to require the prosecutor to provide and adequate and genuine race-neutral reason for Defendant’s peremptory challenge to the juror at issue; and (2) considered in the light most favorable to Defendant, the evidence warranted instructions on self-defense and voluntary manslaughter based on the theory of excessive use of force in self-defense. View "Commonwealth v. Ortega" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for a new trial based partly on a claim that one juror lied in filling out the written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial, holding that the district court’s investigation concerning the answers given by the juror was inadequate. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of charges arising out of a large-scale marijuana-farming operation. Defendants moved for a new trial, arguing that one juror lied in filling out a written questionnaire given to prospective jurors prior to trial. The district court denied the motion for a new trial. The First Circuit vacated the denial based on the possible bias of the juror and remanded for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the alleged bias of the juror presented a “colorable or plausible” claim of the type of juror misconduct that could require a new trial, and therefore, the district court was required to do more than it did before ruling on the new trial motion. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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Hrobowski was convicted of federal firearms offenses in 2006 and sentenced to 264 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) based on prior Illinois state‐law convictions: aggravated battery, second‐degree murder, aggravated discharge of a firearm, and aggravated fleeing from a police officer. Hrobowski first unsuccessfully moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel; he then unsuccessfully sought authorization to file a successive petition alleging a "Brady" violation. He then filed an unsuccessful petition under Descamps and Alleyne. Hrobowski then sought authorization to file a successive section 2255 petition following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Johnson decision, invalidating ACCA’s residual clause. Petitions based on Johnson errors generally satisfy the requirement for filing a successive section 2255 petition: the Johnson decision was a new rule of constitutional law, and the Supreme Court made the rule retroactive. Hrobowski claimed that he was discharged from the second‐degree murder conviction in 1998 and from the aggravated discharge of a firearm conviction in 2002 and that his civil rights were fully restored. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the petition. One prior conviction was based on the residual clause but the Johnson violation was harmless as Hrobowski had three other prior violent felonies. His claim that two of his other convictions should not be considered prior violent felonies because his rights were restored is procedurally barred. View "Hrobowski v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to LRS in an action filed by plaintiff alleging that she was denied a promotion because of her race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court held that it was undisputed that plaintiff established a prima facie case of employment discrimination, but LRS asserted a justification that was not pretextual. In this case, there was no evidence in the record of any discrimination in the promotion decision. The court explained that any difference in qualifications between the two candidates did not create a genuine issue of fact that plaintiff was clearly better qualified for the district supervisor position. The choice to value the other candidate's credentials over plaintiff's strengths was within the realm of reasonable business judgments. View "Roberson-King v. Louisiana Workforce Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in its entirety the judgment of the trial court imposing a sentence of death after a jury convicted Defendant of first degree murder, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, robbery, and grand theft. The jury found that the murder occurred during a robbery and that Defendant personally used a firearm. The jury then returned a verdict of death. The trial court imposed that sentence, as well as an aggregate determinate sentence of eight years four months. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no prejudicial error occurred during the pretrial proceedings, the guilt phase proceedings, or the penalty phase proceedings. Further, the Court held that Defendant’s death judgment did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in light of his youth and intellectual shortcomings, that Defendant’s challenges to the constitutionality of California’s death penalty statute failed, and that Defendant’s claim of cumulative prejudice must be rejected. View "People v. Powell" on Justia Law

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Under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), the scope of the ADA's "regarded-as" definition of disability was expanded. The plaintiff must show, under the ADAAA, that he has been subjected to a prohibited action because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. In this case, plaintiff filed suit against HIE, alleging disability discrimination under the ADA and state law claiming that HIE terminated him because of his shoulder injury. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff established a genuine issue of material fact as to whether his employer regarded him as having a disability. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that plaintiff was not regarded-as disabled. Furthermore, the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff did not meet the "physical" definition of disability under the ADA. View "Nunies v. HIE Holdings" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified the following question to the Washington Supreme Court: Under what circumstances, if any, does obesity qualify as an "impairment" under the Washington Law against Discrimination, Wash. Rev. Code 49.60.040? View "Taylor v. Burlington Northern Railroad Holdings Inc." on Justia Law