Appellate Procedure

The Federal Docket

United States v. Hible (7th Cir. September 2021)

The Seventh Circuit held that the deadline for filing a notice of appeal in a criminal case is measured from the date a district court denies a motion for reconsideration, not the date of a district court’s order on the underlying motion.

United States v. Tony Dewayne Williams (6th Cir. March 2021)

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence which was enhanced based on a prior felony conviction under Tennessee law involving marijuana. The Court held that the sentencing court erred in enhancing the defendant’s sentence based on that conviction because the Tennessee law at issue included hemp under the definition of marijuana, while hemp was distinguishable and legal under federal law. Therefore, the Tennessee conviction was not a “controlled substance offense” under the Guidelines. However, since the defendant had only objected generally at sentencing and did not articulate grounds for his objection, plain error review applied, and the sentencing court’s error here were not clear or obvious given the complexity of the issue.

United States v. Precias Freeman (4th Cir. March 2021)

The Fourth Circuit vacated a drug defendant’s sentence for two reasons. First, it held that, despite there having been no hearing where sentencing counsel testified, the record was sufficient to establish that defendant received ineffective assistance when her counsel waived meritorious objections to the guidelines that would have resulted in a lower range and where he put his efforts into getting her in a drug program despite not knowing the program’s requirements for admission. The Court also held that the defendant’s 17-year sentence was substantively unreasonable where the sentencing court failed to consider her severe opioid addiction and that her sentence was significantly longer than those of similarly-situated defendants across the country.

United States v. Enrique Valencia-Lopez (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction for transporting marijuana and remanded for a new trial because the district court did not properly assess the reliability of the government’s expert witness, an ICE agent, who testified that the cartel does not employ unwilling couriers. The Court held that this was harmful error because it directly undercut the defendant’s credibility and duress defense.

United States v. Michael Heinrich (3rd Cir. June 2020)

The Third Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction and remanded the case to the district court for an explicit ruling and reasonings on whether to exclude the defendant’s proffered expert evidence under Rule 403. The Court recognized its authority to conduct a de novo balancing test but held that remand was more appropriate where there was no record regarding the judge’s reasoning, the judge had not issued a formal ruling (instead having a law clerk inform the parties of the judge’s intent), and a trial judge is better positioned to conduct the Rule 403 balancing test.

United States v. Jason Harriman (8th Cir. August 2020)

The Eighth Circuit upheld a defendant’s conviction of murder-for-hire, denying entrapment as an affirmative defense under the de novo standard of review because the defendant did not produce sufficient evidence of inducement. The Court also affirmed the district court’s denial of motions for new counsel and new trial, holding the proper standard of review is for abuse of discretion.

United States v. Mitchell Stein (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendant’s sentence, holding that the district court properly estimated the loss amount based on specific, circumstantial evidence of causation, namely that the defendant’s investors relied on the defendant’s fraudulent representations, and that the court did not err in rejecting the defendant’s intervening causation theory. The Court also held that the defendant’s claims on remand before the district court where limited by the scope fo the appellate court’s mandate on remand and did not fall under any of the three exceptions.

United States v. Darius Caldwell (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for armed bank robbery and related firearm charges, holding that the a trial court’s admission of unduly suggestive out-of-court identifications is not reversible error where the identification is otherwise reliable, there was sufficient evidence that the bank was federally insured, and new DNA testimony regarding deviations between the witness’s testimony and the FBI’s guidelines on DNA evidence would not likely change the outcome of the trial.

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.

Holguin-Hernandez v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that a defendant has preserved his ability to appeal a sentence as substantively unreasonable as long as the sentence ultimately imposed was longer than the sentence he requested.

Scroll to Top