The Federal Docket is a monthly newsletter providing lawyers and the community a summary of recent important decisions in the area of federal criminal law from the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The opinions are compiled, summarized and analyzed by Tom Church, an attorney in our firm’s federal criminal defense practice.


In The News

  • Jails Across U.S. Release Hundreds of Inmates To Limit Exposure to Coronavirus

    March 27, 2020. Jails across the country have continued to release low-level offenders at an increasing rate as the coronavirus outbreak worsens. No one has beaten New Jersey’s move to release a thousand inmates, but some have come close, with Cleveland releasing more than 700 inmates from the county jail, and hundreds of other inmates being ...

  • Inmate Dies from Coronavirus in Georgia Prison

    March 27, 2020. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has reported that an outbreak of coronavirus at the Lee State Prison in Lee County, Georgia has resulted in the death of an inmate, 49 year old Anthony Cheek. Mr. Cheek only had two more years to serve. At this point, multiple inmates and prison staff at Lee State Prison ...

  • US Attorney for Middle District of GA Appoints Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator

    March 27, 2020. As we see an increase in prosecutions for “coronavirus-related fraud,” it appears that law enforcement’s efforts are becoming more formal. Today, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced that he has appointed a federal prosecutor to investigative suspected fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The move comes after AG ...

  • AG Barr Directs BOP to Consider More Inmates for Home Confinement As Cases Increase

    March 26, 2020. This week, Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to the Bureau of Prisons urging officials to identify certain inmates for home confinement in an effort to reduce the inmate population. The move to expand home confinement comes after reports that inmates in at least two BOP facilities have contracted the coronavirus. To ...

  • Feds Charge California Man With Coronavirus-related Fraud

    March 25, 2020. On Wednesday, the FBI arrested a man in California and charged him with federal fraud offenses. The man was allegedly soliciting investments for a fake cure for the coronavirus. To date, there is no cure for those infected with the virus. According to an article on ABC News, the federal government is accusing the ...

  • DOJ Considers Terrorism Charges for Intentionally Spreading Coronavirus

    March 25, 2020. ABC News has reported that the Department of Justice has urged U.S. Attorneys to consider bringing federal terrorism charges against individuals who either threat to spread or who intentionally spread the coronavirus to others. According to a DOJ memo, prosecutors are encouraged to treat the virus as a “biological agent” which can be ...

  • BOP Still Transferring Inmates Between Facilities After 3 Inmates Test Positive for COVID-19

    March 26, 2020. According to internal documents obtained by ABC News, the BOP has continued to transfer inmates between facilities days after three federal inmates tested positive for coronavirus at two different facilities (FCC Oakdale in Louisiana and MDC New York). While the BOP recently released a memo to staff notifying them that inmate movement would be ...

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Recent Supreme Court Opinions

  • Kahler v. Kansas (U.S. Supreme Court, March 2020)

    The Supreme Court held that Kansas's insanity defense, which turns on whether the defendant was capable of understanding his conduct as opposed to understanding whether his conduct was morally wrong, did not offend due process. The Court stressed that the insanity defense changes in response to developments in mental health science and that state governments are better equipped to design the defense.

  • Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

    In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant's prior conviction under state law qualifies as a "serious drug offense" under the ACCA if the defendant's conduct involves "manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance" as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant's state offenses to a "generic offense."

  • McKinney v. Arizona (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

    The Supreme Court held that allowing a state appellate court to reweigh the aggravating and mitigating factors in a capital case under Clemons v. Mississippi is a permissible remedy after a finding on collateral review that the sentence court failed to consider mitigating factors in violation of Eddings v. Oklahoma.


Recent Circuit Court Opinions

  • United States v. John Terry Chatman, Jr. (8th Cir. March 2020)

    The Court reversed the defendant's conviction for obstruction of justice by attempting to kill a witness where the evidence showed that the defendant shot at an officer "out of frustration and retaliation" and not with the intent of "preventing a communication about the commission of a federal offense" to other other officers.

  • United States v. Rosa Enedia Pazos Cingari, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

    In a case involving mail fraud and falsifying immigration forms, the Court held that the district court correctly applied the Guidelines for fraud under 2B1.1 rather than for falsifying immigration forms under 2L2.1, explaining that "the heart" of the defendant's scheme was enriching themselves by cheating undocumented immigrants.

  • United States v. Terrill Rickmon, Sr. (7th Cir. March 2020)

    In a matter of first impression involving the use of ShotSpotter, GPS-enabled technology that detects gunfire, the Court held that there was reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle emerging from an area where gunfire was detected based on the short lapse of time between the detection and the stop, the vehicle's proximity to the area, the behavior of the occupants, and other circumstances.

Published by Pate, Johnson & Church
Contact Tom Church at tom@patejohnson.com with any comments, questions or feedback.

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