Appellate Procedure

The Federal Docket

United States v. Odis Lee Jackson (5th Cir. December 2019)

The Fifth Circuit held that the de novo standard of review applies to a district court’s determination regarding a defendant’s eligibility under the First Step Act, but that the abuse-of-discretion standard applies to the district court’s decision whether to actually reduce the defendant’s sentence.

United States v. Cesar Antonio Becerra (9th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction, holding that the district court’s failure to orally instruct the jury on the elements of the charged offenses was a structural and plain error even where the district court orally confirmed with each juror that they had read the instructions.

United States v. David Wright (1st Cir. August 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction. In reviewing the trial court’s jury instructions on providing material support or resources to a terrorist organization, the Court held that a defendant does not act “in coordination” with a terrorist group simply by utilizing “strategy” or “tactics” used by that organization and published online by that organization.

Michael Wade Nance v. Warden (11th Cir. April 2019)

Reviewing a petitioner’s § 2254 motion, the Court held that the state court’s rejection of petitioner’s ineffective claim was objectively reasonable since trial counsel’s decision to refrain from presenting certain mitigation evidence at death penalty sentencing was a strategic decision. The Court also held that the state court did not go against clearly established federal law in holding that the trial court did not err in requiring defendant to wear a stun belt under his clothes because the Supreme Court has only established that requiring visible restraints is prejudicial.

United States v. Stanislav Pavlenko (11th Cir. April 2019)

The Court dismissed the defendant’s appeal, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review an order dismissing the indictment against the defendant. Even though the order was explicitly based on the government’s promise to dismiss charges in exchange for the defendant’s agreement to leave the U.S. for ten years, the order itself did not impose those terms on the defendant or create a legal interest that would give him standing to appeal the order.

Wyndell Hall v. Secretary, Department of Corrections (11th Cir. April 2019)

The Court held that the district court erred in dismissing the petitioner’s § 2254 motion as untimely after he filed a defective postconviction motion in state court. The Court held that the petitioner’s amended motion related back to the original filing, thus tolling the AEDPA’s statute of limitations from the time of the original filing until the amended motion was denied with prejudice.

Willie Seth Crain v. Florida (11th Cir. March 2019)

The Court held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review the district court’s denial of a § 2254 petitioner’s motions for substitute counsel. The orders were not final orders under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and did not fall under the collateral order doctrine since orders could be reviewed in an appeal from a denial of the petitioner’s §2254 motion.

United States v. Michael St. Hubert (11th Cir. March 2019), EN BANC

A majority of the Court voted against granting a rehearing en banc. The Court produced three dissents and three opinions concurring in the decision to deny granting a rehearing en banc. This decision leaves in place the prior panel opinion regarding the ACCA and the binding authority of prior panel orders on Section 2255 petitions as applied to future, non-2255 cases.

United States v. Rachel Padgett (11th Cir. March 2019)

The Court held that a pro se defendant’s Notice of Appeal was insufficient under Rule 3(c)(1) where the evidence reflected the defendant’s intention to file a collateral attack instead. The defendant’s notice failed to name a court of appeals or grounds for appeal, she signed a statement declining to pursue an appeal, and she sought to raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, one of the few claims not waived by her plea agreement.

United States v. Robert Barton (11th Cir. December 2018)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an expert’s testimony concerning DNA evidence where the expert’s methodology was reliable and any abuse of discretion was harmless. The Court also declined to consider new evidence that only became available after the defendant’s conviction.

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