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Vuncannon, et al v. United States, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 12-60435

A man was injured while incarcerated in county jail and working on a work detail in connection with his incaration.  The county and the medical corporation that treated the man sought reimbursement of medical expenses from the Mississippi Public Entities Workers' Compensation Trust (MPE), the provider of workers' compensation insurance from the county.  Consequently, at issue was whether the man was covered under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act (MWCA), Mississippi Code 47-5-417, -567, and thus was entitled to compensation benefits for injuries sustained while he was on work detail. The court concluded as a matter of law that the county had no enforceable contract to hire plaintiff, a prerequisite of coverage, and therefore, the court affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of MPE.

 

United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, United State Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-41363

Defendant was convicted at trial.  Thereafter, the defendant challenged one of two counts of his drug-trafficking conviction for insufficiency of evidence and the other for an erroneously submitted jury instruction. The court clarified that, because the Supreme Court had stated and repeatedly reaffirmed the constitutional test for sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction, Jackson v. Virginia, the statements inconsistent with Jackson that have appeared in some Fifth Circuit cases must be disavowed. Nonetheless, when using the Jackson standard, the appellate court found that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of knowing, voluntary participation in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. In sum, the appellate court concluded that the district court neither erred nor abused its discretion in giving the aiding and abetting jury instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions.

 

Read the court's opinion here.

 

Get your designated drivers lined up, folks! 

 

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office has announced a DWI checkpoint for motorists at an undisclosed location on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish this Friday night (March 15, 2013). The checkpoint is scheduled for 8 p.m. to 2 a.m..

 

The checkpoint is part of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office effort to prevent alcohol-related injuries and fatalities. Intoxicated drivers will be arrested.

 

Motorists should also remember not to drive while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that could lead to impairment (even over the counter or other prescription medications). If residents plan on drinking, they should choose a designated driver or simply call a cab.

 

United States v. Cancino-Trinidad, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-41344

After the defendant pleaded guilty to illegal reentry, he appealed, asserting that the imposition of a three-year term of supervised release ("SR") was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. However, even assuming the district court did not previously conduct the factual consideration described in U.S.S.G. 5D1.1, the appellate court found that the defendant's criminal record supported a finding that the imposition of SR would provide an added measure of deterrence and protection based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Because the defendant had raised a possibility of a different result, but not the requisite probability, the court concluded that the error did not affect his substantial rights. Further, the appellate court found that the district court did not err in imposing the length of the SR, which was within the applicable guideline range. Accordingly, the court affirmed the defendant's sentence.

 

Read Opinion here at ca5.uscourts.gov

 

Richards v. Thaler, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-20803

Petitioner appealed the district court's dismissal of his habeas corpus petition as time-barred because it was filed after the one-year deadline. Petitioner contended that the district court erred by deeming the date the clerk of the court stamped his state post-conviction petition as received to be the date he filed the petition. The court held that, under Texas law, petitioner's 28 U.S.C. 2254 application was deemed filed on the date petitioner turned the application over to prison authorities to be filed. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded and did not reach petitioner's claim that he was entitled to equitable tolling.

 

Read Opinion here at ca5.uscourts.gov

 

United States v. Wallstrum et al., United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Docket No. 11-11228

After the denial of motions to suppress evidence, defendants Wallstrum, Clark, and Bryant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute but appealled the denial of their respective motions to suppress. Despite expert testimony and other evidence offered by the defendants that the initial stop and subsequent detention was not valid, the appeallate court affirmed the district court's determination that the initial stop was lawful; reasonable suspicion justified the prolonged detention; and the district court did not clearly err in finding that Bryant's consent to search the car was voluntary.

 

Read Opinion here at ca5.uscourts.gov

 

United States v. Duque-Hernandez, United States Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, Docket No. 11-40642

Defendant pleaded guilty to illegal reentry after deportation and was sentenced to 51 months of imprisonment. On appeal, defendant challenged the district court's application of a twelve-level adjustment to his base offense level for his previous commission of a drug trafficking offense. Because defendant did not object to the application of the adjustment, the court reviewed for plain error. Concluding that the sentencing error, if any, did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings, the court declined to exercise its discretion to correct it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.

 

Read Opinion here at ca5.uscourts.gov

 

Both the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office will conduct sobriety checkpoints on Thursday night, according to separate news releases from the two agencies. While NOPD did not specify in which part of Orleans Parish the checkpoint would be located, JPSO said its checkpoint will be somewhere on the West Bank.

 

The Jefferson Parish checkpoint will be from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The Orleans Parish one will be conducted from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., police said.

 

Authorities said motorists would experience minimal delays and be prepared with proof of insurance, driver's license and registration.

 

Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. _____ (2013)

A California jury convicted Williams of murder. On direct appeal she claimed that questioning and dismissal of a juror during deliberations violated the Sixth Amendment and California law. Holding that the juror had been properly dismissed for bias, the California Court of Appeal quoted a Supreme Court definition of "impartiality," but did not expressly acknowledge that it was deciding a Sixth Amendment issue. The state's highest court remanded in light of its intervening decision that a trial court abused its discretion by dismissing, for failure to deliberate, a juror who appeared to disagree with the rest of the jury. Reaffirming its prior decision, the court of appeal discussed that decision and again failed to expressly acknowledge the federal claim. Williams sought federal habeas relief. The district court applied the deferential standard of review under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act for claims already "adjudicated on the merits in State court," 28 U. S. C. 2254(d). The Ninth Circuit concluded that the state court had not considered Williams' Sixth Amendment claim, reviewed that claim de novo, and found violation of the Sixth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed. When a state court rules against a defendant in an opinion that rejects some of the defendant's claims but does not expressly address a federal claim, a federal habeas court must presume, subject to rebuttal, that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits for purposes of AEDPA. Applying that rebuttable presumption, the Ninth Circuit erred. Several facts indicate that the state court did consider the Sixth Amendment claim.

 

Read Opinion here at supremecourt.gov

 

Evans v. Michigan, 568 U.S. _____ (2013)

After the State of Michigan rested its case at Evans' arson trial, the court granted a directed verdict of acquittal, concluding that the state had failed to prove that the burned building was not a dwelling, a fact the court mistakenly believed was an "element" of the statutory offense. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for retrial. In affirming, the state's highest court held that a directed verdict based on an error of law that did not resolve a factual element of the charged offense was not an acquittal for double jeopardy purposes. The Supreme Court reversed; the Double Jeopardy Clause bars retrial. An acquittal encompasses any ruling that the prosecution's proof is insufficient to establish criminal liability for an offense. Unlike procedural rulings, which lead to dismissals or mistrials on a basis unrelated to factual guilt or innocence, acquittals are substantive rulings that conclude proceedings absolutely, and raise significant double jeopardy concerns. The trial court clearly evaluated the state's evidence and determined that it was legally insufficient to sustain a conviction. The acquittal was the product of an erroneous interpretation of governing legal principles, but that error affects only the accuracy of the determination to acquit, not its essential character.

 

Read Opinion here at supremecourt.gov

 

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