Tenth Circuit

The Federal Docket

Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits Join Majority of Circuits Holding that Courts Have Broad Discretion in Granting Sentence Reductions

The Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have issued opinions over the past few weeks holding that district courts have broad, independent discretion in determining whether an inmate has established “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warranting a sentence reduction under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A). The courts join the Second, Fourth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits in recognizing the broad discretion of district courts, creating a substantial majority of the circuits. The other circuits have not yet addressed this issue.

United States v. Christian Delgado-Lopez (10th Cir. September 2020)

The Tenth Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence, holding that the district court applied the wrong legal standards in denying the defendant a minor role reduction under 3B1.2(b). The judge did not consider the totality of the circumstances or evaluate any particular factors, but rather denied the reduction based on the judge’s own speculation regarding the defendant’s economic motives and his lack of cooperation with the government, rather than evidence in the record.

United States v. Shane Young (10th Cir. July 2020)

The Tenth Circuit reversed the defendant’s conviction and held that the district court erred in failing to suppress involuntary statements made by the defendant to an FBI agent. The Court held that the agent’s interrogation of the defendant was coercive given his false representations about the sentence the defendant faced and the agent’s ability to get the defendant a reduced sentence based on the agent’s relationship with the judge. The agent’s coercive questioning outweighed the defendant’s waiver of rights and prior experiences with the justice system.

United States v. Jose Barrera-Landa (10th Cir. July 2020)

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s request to enjoin ICE from removing him once he was granted pretrial release, holding that a defendant’s release under the Bail Reform Act does not preclude ICE from detaining him under its own, independent statutory authority.

United States v. Samuel Elliott (10th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s convictions on three of four counts for possession of child pornography. The Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B), which prohibits knowingly possessing “any book, magazine…or any other material that contains an image of child pornography,” was ambiguous regarding the “unit of prosecution,” so the defendant could not be convicted for multiple counts based on having child pornography on multiple devices.

United States v. Jose Luis Eliseo Arias Quijada (10th Cir. 2019)

The Court affirmed the district court’s refusal to instruct the jury on durress, holding that the defendant asserting duress must show either: 1) “a bonafide effort to surrender to law enforcement officials once the alleged duress ends” or 2) “the duress defense elements were satisfied throughout the entirety of his criminal conduct.” The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that he was under duress during the three years he illegally lived in the U.S. due to the belief that he would be deported back to El Salvador, holding that the defendant’s subjective belief was not supported by the record and there was no evidence that his asylum claim would have been denied.

United States v. Jon Julian Cabral (10th Cir. June 2019)

The Court struck a defendant’s condition of supervised release that allowed the probation officer to determine whether the defendant poses a risk to third parties and then require the defendant to notify those third parties, holding that this was an improper delegation of judicial authority to the probation officer.

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