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Tag Archives: Criminal Practice

Criminal Practice – Murder – Circumstantial Evidence – Motive & Opportunity (access required)

State v. Miles Even though the state presented no direct evidence that defendant killed the victim, the state presented sufficient circumstantial evidence. The state proved motive in the form of a $40,000 debt and opportunity via cell phone records and testimony as to defendant’s threats and his possession of a gun like the one that killed the victim.

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Criminal Practice – Jury & Jurors – ‘Anonymous’ Jury – Murder Trial – First Impression – Constitutional – Hearsay Evidence – Murdered Witness — Conspiracy (access required)

U.S. v. Dinkins Using an ‘anonymous’ jury whose biographical information has been withheld from defense lawyers and defendants accused of drug-trafficking and the murder of government witnesses is not a reason to overturn their convictions; the 4th Circuit follows decisions by its sister circuits and provides guidelines for use of anonymous juries.

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Criminal Practice – Impersonating an Officer – Constitutional – First Amendment – Freedom of Speech (access required)

U.S. v. Chappell The 4th Circuit says a former deputy sheriff who told an officer he was a deputy in an attempt to avoid a speeding ticket cannot overturn his conviction for impersonating an officer by claiming the Virginia statute at issue, Va. Code § 18.2-174, violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

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Criminal Practice – Firearm Possession – Personal Right of Self-Defense — ‘Home Possession’ – Insufficient Showing of Residence (access required)

U.S. v. Smoot A defendant cannot claim a personal right of self-defense under D.C. v. Heller to a weapons charge, as he did not prove that he lived at the address where he was arrested in the backyard; the 4th Circuit also rejects defendant’s challenge to the jury instruction on the interstate commerce element of the gun charge.

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Criminal Practice – Stabbing in Afghanistan – South African Defendant – British Victim – Private Contractors – Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (access required)

U.S. v. Brehm A South African employee of a private contractor can be convicted under U.S. law for stabbing a British citizen while both were working for separate private contractors supporting the NATO war effort in Afghanistan; the 4th Circuit affirms the conviction pursuant to an indictment that relied on the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.

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Criminal Practice – Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Estimated Speed (access required)

U.S. v. Mubdi The 4th Circuit upholds a traffic stop based on two officers’ separate visual estimates of defendant’s speed, as the officers’ radar certification training required them to visually estimate vehicle speed within a narrow margin of error; the subsequent open-air search by a drug-sniffing dog did not violate defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, and his convictions for cocaine and firearms possession are affirmed.

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Criminal Practice – Sentencing – Illegal Reentry into U.S. – Prior Child Abuse Conviction – No Enhancement (access required)

U.S. v. Gomez A district court erred in enhancing a defendant’s sentence for illegal reentry into the U.S. by determining her prior child abuse conviction to be an aggravated felony; the 4th Circuit joins the majority of its sister circuits and says the “modified categorical approach” for evaluating a defendant’s prior conviction as a crime of violence should be applied only to statutory offenses in which the statute itself is divisible.

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Criminal Practice – DWI – Attorneys – Standby Counsel – Fees – Witness’s Arrest (access required)

State v. Bankert The trial court explained to defendant the role standby counsel would play at his trial, and defendant clearly communicated to the trial court that he wanted to represent himself with the assistance of Michael Dye serving as standby counsel. Further, the record reflects that defendant benefitted from Dye’s assistance throughout his trial. There is nothing to indicate that the trial court abused its discretion by appointing standby counsel for defendant and by ordering defendant to pay the corresponding attorney’s fees of $3,502.50.

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Criminal Practice – DWI & Second-Degree Murder – Proximate Cause – Prior Convictions – Malice – Other Bad Acts (access required)

State v. Marslender An eyewitness testified that defendant’s truck passed her just as she was beginning to slow down because of heavy rain. She saw the truck go out of control due to, she thought, overcompensating. In addition to defendant’s 0.12 blood alcohol content, this was sufficient evidence that defendant’s impaired driving was the proximate cause of the accident that killed his passenger.

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Criminal Practice – Attorneys – Effective Assistance – Witness Credibility – No Admission of Guilt – Defendant’s Age (access required)

State v. Vester Defendant was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, assault by strangulation, assault on a female, and misdemeanor larceny. Even though defense counsel said in his opening statement that defendant didn’t try to set the victim on fire and never tried to choke her, and even though defense counsel admitted in his closing argument that the victim had “gone through something,” defense counsel did not implicitly concede that defendant was guilty of assault on a female and larceny. Defense counsel maintained throughout the trial that the jury should find defendant not guilty of any of the charges. Defendant has failed to show that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel.

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