Fifth Amendment

The Federal Docket

United States v. Maher Obagi and Mohamed Salah (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit reversed convictions for fraud because the government disclosed material impeachment evidence about one of its witnesses after the close of evidence and after it had given its closing argument. The defendants were prejudiced by this untimely disclosure, especially given the length of jury deliberations and split verdict.

United States v. Jack Voris (9th Cir. July 2020)

The Ninth Circuit reversed one of the defendant’s assault convictions and corresponding § 924(c) convictions as multiplicitous because the defendant, although charged with shooting at five officers, only shot at them four times. The Court also held that multiple shots fired in quick succession do not necessarily mean the firearm was only used once under 924(c).

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. Colinford Mattis, Urooj Rahman (2d Cir. June 2020)

In a case involving young lawyers charged with throwing molotov cocktails into an unoccupied police cruiser, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order releasing them on bond pending trial. The Court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in determining the conditions of release were adequate to safeguard the community and that it did not err by not explicitly mentioning the statutory presumption against release in its order.

Ervine Davenport v. Duncan MacLaren, Warden (6th Cir. June 2020)

The Court vacated the defendant’s state law conviction for first degree murder. The defendant’s shackling during trial violated clearly established federal law and was not harmless since the evidence of first-degree premeditation was not overwhelming.

United States v. Albi Doka (2d Cir. April 2020)

Upon the defendant’s appeal of his revocation of supervised release, the Second Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Haymond did not overrule its prior precedent that district courts may engage in fact-finding when revoking a defendant’s supervised release and imposing an additional term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3).

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.

United States v. Ionel Muresanu (7th Cir. March 2020)

The Court vacated the defendant’s convictions for aggravated identity theft based on the trial court violating his Fifth Amendment right to be tried on offenses charged by the grand jury. The indictment against him was defective in alleging that he committed “attempted” aggravated identity theft, a non crime, and the district court erred in removing the “attempt” language from its jury instructions.

United States v. Ray Foster (6th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that the double jeopardy clause did not bar the Government from retrying the defendant where the prosecution did not “coax” the defendant into requesting a mistrial at his first trial. Despite the fact that the prosecution had repeatedly and obviously violated the defendant’s right to confrontation of witnesses at that trial, the district court did not clearly err in finding that the prosecutor had not intended to lure the defendant into requesting a mistrial, citing the strength of the prosecutor’s case and the prosecution consistently arguing that the confrontation clause did not apply.

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.

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