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An Illinois jury convicted Czech of first-degree murder and aggravated discharge of a firearm for his role in a gang-related drive-by shooting that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old bystander. Czech argued on direct appeal that his counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the felony murder instruction that was submitted to the jury in conjunction with a general verdict. The Illinois Appellate Court determined that the felony murder instruction violated Illinois law, but concluded the error was harmless. The Supreme Court of Illinois declined further review. The federal district court denied 28 U.S.C. 2254 relief, reasoning that, although the conviction violated clearly established federal law, the error did not have a substantial and injurious effect on the verdict. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. In 2004, when the Illinois court affirmed the conviction, no Supreme Court precedent clearly established that a conviction entered on a general verdict was unconstitutional merely because the jury instructions included a legal theory that was invalid under state law Even subsequent law did not expressly hold that instructing a jury on multiple theories of guilt, one of which is legally improper, is a constitutional error. In addition, Czech is not entitled to relief because, even if constitutional error were shown, the error was harmless: a properly instructed jury would have delivered the same verdict. View "Czech v. Melvin" on Justia Law

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On November 22, 1997, around 1:30 a.m., Miles demanded money from brothers Maher and Ziad, outside of Maher’s Cincinnati Save-Way store. The brothers complied but Miles shot them with an assault rifle. Cincinnati police hypothesized that Issa, a Save-Way employee, hired Miles to commit the murders because Linda, Maher’s wife, offered Issa money to kill her husband. The state charged all three with aggravated murder. Miles refused to testify at Issa’s trial although he had testified in Linda’s trial. The prosecution had revoked Miles’s immunity the day before he was to testify. The court concluded that Miles was unavailable and allowed the admission of Miles’s out-of-court statements, through the testimony of siblings who were Miles’s teenage friends at the time of the murders. A jury acquitted Linda; Miles received a life sentence. Issa received a death sentence. In 2003, Issa filed his initial habeas petition. The district court denied relief but granted a certificate of appealability for grounds including failure to call Linda as a witness and admission of the siblings’ testimony about Miles’s hearsay statements. The Sixth Circuit ordered a conditional writ of habeas corpus. The admission of Miles’s hearsay statements violated the Confrontation Clause under then-governing Supreme Court law and was not harmless. The Ohio Supreme Court did not consider the “totality of the circumstances,” which show that the statements are not trustworthy. The statements were the only direct evidence implicating Issa in a murder for hire. View "Issa v. Bradshaw" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that the evidence credited by the trial court was sufficient to support a Qawi order, which authorizes the California Department of State Hospitals-Atascadero (Hospital or ASH) to involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication to treat defendant's severe mental disorder. In this case, the trial court found that appellant lacked the capacity to refuse medical treatment and issued a Qawi order authorizing the Hospital to involuntarily administer antipsychotic medication. The court also held that substantial evidence supported the finding that the order furthered a compelling government interest that outweighed any religious belief and there was no due process violation in defendant's case. View "California Department of State Hospitals v. A.H." on Justia Law

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In December 2017, Reese was charged with using a facility and means of interstate or foreign commerce to attempt to induce, entice, or coerce a minor into engaging in sexual activity. The government sought pretrial detention arguing that there was probable cause to believe that Reese had committed the charged offense, which created a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention, 18 U.S.C. 3142(e)(3)(E). The motion was granted. In February 2018, Reese filed a pro se 28 U.S.C. 2241 petition. In March 2018, Reese, through counsel, moved for pretrial release in the separate criminal case, but before the same judge. That judge denied the motion, concluding that the evidence against Reese was “overwhelming,” that Reese had numerous prior criminal convictions, that Reese had previously violated conditions of bail, and that Reese lacked ties to the community. An appeal of that denial is pending. The court then dismissed the section 2241 petition. The Third Circuit held that a federal detainee cannot challenge his pretrial detention via a section 2241 habeas petition; such a request for release pending trial can only be considered under the Bail Reform Act, 18 U.S.C. 3141–3150, which provides a comprehensive scheme governing pretrial-release decisions. View "Reese v. Warden Philadelphia FDC" on Justia Law

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Three exotic dancers under the age of 21 filed suit challenging Louisiana's amendment of two statutes (Act No. 395) that required entertainers on premises licensed to serve alcohol and whose breasts or buttocks are exposed to view be 21 years of age or older. The district court concluded that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that the Act was unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, and issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the Act. The Fifth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s determination that the statute failed to comply with time, place, and manner standards on expressive conduct under United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 376 (1968), and that the statute was overbroad. However, the court held that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and the standards for an injunction have been met. In this case, there was a substantial likelihood that plaintiffs would prevail on the merits of their vagueness claim where plaintiffs have shown that the Act had the capacity to chill constitutionally protected conduct, especially conduct protected by the First Amendment. The court held that the Act's vagueness and its resultant capacity to chill protected conduct supported a finding that the remaining injunctive relief requirements were satisfied. View "Doe v. Marine-Lombard" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action alleging that the FBI violated his substantive and procedural due process rights by placing and maintaining him on the No Fly List. While plaintiff's action was pending, defendants removed plaintiff from the list and the district court held that his due process claims were moot. The panel held, however, that the voluntary cessation doctrine applied here and precluded a finding of mootness. In this case, plaintiff's removal from the list was more likely an exercise of discretion than a decision arising from a broad change in agency policy or procedure. Furthermore, the government has not assured plaintiff that he would not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise plaintiff's status on the receipt of new information. Finally, plaintiff's removal from the list did not completely and irrevocably eradicate the effects of the alleged violations. View "Fikre v. FBI" on Justia Law

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Pennsylvania charged Walker with forgery and computer crimes, joined with prior charges against Walker’s husband and his trucking company. Senior deputy attorney general Coffey was assigned to the case. Zimmerer was the lead investigator. They sought to obtain Walker’s work emails from her employer, Penn State, which responded, “We just need something formal, a subpoena.” Coffey and Zimmerer obtained a blank subpoena form, which they filled out in part. The subpoena is blank as to the date, time, and place of production and the party on behalf of whom testimony is required, and was, on its face, unenforceable. Zimmerer presented the unenforceable subpoena to Penn State's Assistant General Counsel. Penn State employees searched for and delivered the requested emails. The charges against Walker were subsequently dismissed with prejudice. Walker filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against Zimmerer and Coffey. The district court dismissed, agreeing that Zimmerer and Coffey were entitled to qualified immunity because Walker could not show a clearly established right to privacy in the content of her work emails. The Third Circuit affirmed that dismissal but vacated the denial of Walker’s motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, asserting claims under the Stored Communications Act. The emails were transmitted via Walker’s work email address, through an email system controlled by Penn State. Walker did not enjoy any reasonable expectation of privacy vis-à-vis Penn State, which could independently consent to a search of Walker’s work emails. View "Walker v. Coffey" on Justia Law

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In September 2016, the Governor of Tennessee convened a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly, concerning federal highway funding. During the session, a member of the House of Representatives moved to expel Durham. The House approved the motion 70 votes to two. It immediately expelled Durham. Durham may have qualified for lifetime health insurance if he had retired but because the House expelled him, the administrators stated that his government-health insurance would expire at the end of September. He also lost certain state-pension benefits. Durham sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging procedural due process violations, and requesting an order that the administrators pay his alleged benefits. The district court dismissed for lack of standing because the complaint alleged that the denial of his benefits was caused by the legislature’s expelling him, rather than by any act by the administrators. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Durham’s injury is fairly traceable to the administrators’ conduct: Durham alleges that he is not receiving benefits that the administrators should pay. That is sufficient to show standing. View "Durham v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment granting petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief from his death sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. The court held that, because the district court's partial grant of petitioner's rule 59(e) motion was not subject to this appeal, the court did not address the merits of the district court's application of Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), and its finding of extraordinary circumstances. The court also held that the district court's finding that petitioner was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance was supported by the evidence. Therefore, the district court properly concluded that petitioner established ineffective assistance of counsel. The court agreed with the district court that, as to Ground I, petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion was not a successive claim under 28 U.S.C. 2244(b). Finally, the district court did not err in denying respondent's Rule 59(e) motion; the judgment granting habeas relief was not the result of any manifest error; and the motion was not supported by any showing of extraordinary circumstances. View "Barnett v. Roper" on Justia Law

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The circuit court denied Zakrzewski’s motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, seeking relief pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief, concluding that its prior denial of Zakrzewski’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising similar claims is a procedural bar to the claims at issue. All of Zakrzewski’s claims depend upon the retroactive application of Hurst, to which the court has held he is not entitled. View "Zakrzewski v. Florida" on Justia Law