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Sixth Amendment

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United States v. Malik Nasir (3rd Cir. December 2020), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Third Circuit held that inchoate offenses are not included in the definition of “controlled substance offenses” under the career offender guidelines because commentary to the Guidelines is not binding when it is inconsistent with or broader than the text of the Guidelines. The Court also held that a court reviewing a defendant’s Rehaif challenge under plain error review is limited to considering the record presented at trial, not the whole record, and a new trial is warranted where there is no evidence presented to a jury regarding the defendant’s knowledge of his prior felony.

United States v. Lindon Amede (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction of a defendant in a drug conspiracy case. The Court held that recorded hearsay statements between an unindicted co-conspirator and an undercover agent were admissible against the defendant where the exsitence of a conspiracy was proved by the co-conspirator discussing drug transactions with the undercover, saying he would send “my guy” to the undercover to conduct business,” and the defendant showing up to conduct transactions as discussed. The Court also held that drug offenses under 841(a)(1) do not require willfullness, that the district court did not err in precluding the defendant from presenting a duress defense, and the district court did not err in allowing the defendant to represent himself at sentencing.

United States v. Calvin McReynolds (6th Cir. July 2020)

The Sixth Circuit vacated the defendant’s sentence for drug conspiracy and remanded it to the sentencing court after the court held the defendant accountable for a higher drug quantity than the jury did at trial, which the defendant argued violated his Sixth Amendment claim. The court held that the sentencing court did not adequately explain its reasoning, so it could not review the constitutionality of the defendant’s claim.

Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

In a per curiam opinion, a majority on the Supreme Court vacated a defendant’s death sentence and held that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective based on his failure to perform mitigation investigation, putting up mitigating evidence that backfired by bolstering the state’s case, failing to investigate the state’s aggravating evidence, and failing to present significant mitigating evidence that he could have discovered.

United States v. David Pon (11th Cir. June 2020)

Evidence/Expert Testimony – Expert testimony discussing a theory that lacks sufficient testing, known or potential error rates, control standards, acceptance among the science community, and a connection between the theory and the underlying research is sufficiently unreliable to be excluded. Further, a peer-reviewed paper mentioning the theory is insufficient alone to prove reliability. Evidence/Rebuttal – …

United States v. David Pon (11th Cir. June 2020) Read More »

United States v. Mikel Clotaire (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for identity theft and access device fraud. The Court affirmed the trial court’s admission of photographic stills from ATM video surveillance, holding that they were non-testimonial business records. The trial court also did not err in allowing lay witness identification, expert witness testimony, or the admission of the defendant’s mugshot where there was no indication of his prior criminal history.

United States v. Richard Owen II (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence after the defendant waived his right to counsel and represented himself. While there was no standby counsel available for the defendant, which weighed against the Government under United States v. Stanley, the other factors under Stanley supported upholding the defendant’s waiver as valid.

Ramos v. Louisiana (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2020)

In a patchwork opinion involving a lengthy discussion of stare decisis, a majority of the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous verdict in a criminal prosecution applies to the states through the Fourteenth amendment.

United States v. Bernard Moore, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of challenges in affirming the defendants’ sentences for drug trafficking and unlawful possession of firearms, holding that the district court did not plainly err in shackling the defendants during trial without stating its reasons in the record and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interviewing jurors in camera regarding their safety concerns and summarizing those interviews for the parties. The Court also concluded that the indictments failure to allege the defendants’ mens rea as required under Rehaif v. United States did not deprive the court of jurisdiction and the plain error of convicting the defendants of unlawful possession of firearm did not warrant reversal where the government would have been able to prove their knowledge.

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).

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