State of Louisiana v. Mazen Hamdan, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-KK-1986

The Supreme Court of Louisiana granted the writ in this case to consider the criteria by which Louisiana courts are to evaluate a criminal defendant's previous conviction in a foreign jurisdiction during a habitual offender adjudication.  Mazen Hamdan was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  The bill of information alleged that Hamdan was previously convicted in Orleans Parish of possession of heroin and possession of methadone, which were used in the trial for the underlying predicate offense(s).  At the conclusion of trial, the jury found Hamdan guilty as charged. The district court subsequently sentenced Hamdan to serve 10 years at the Department of Corrections.  Yet, on the day of the sentencing hearing, the State of Louisiana filed a habitual offender bill of information, alleging that Hamdan's sentence should be enhanced due to his prior guilty plea in federal court to interstate transportation of stolen property.  Hamdan responded by filing a motion to quash the habitual offender bill, contending that the predicate offense alleged by the State of Louisiana had no felony equivalent under Louisiana law.  Hamdan also argued that the charging instrument in the federal prosecution did not indicate whether he actually possessed the stolen property or simply arranged for its transportation.  The district court granted Hamdan's motion to quash, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed.  The Louisiana Supreme Court stated: "When a predicate offense does not necessarily include conduct criminal under Louisiana law, the conviction cannot lead to an enhanced penalty.  In determining whether the predicate offense satisfies this criteria, courts are not confined to an examination of the applicable laws and the charging instrument of the foreign jurisdiction.  Rather, when . . . there is information from the foreign proceeding available in the record that clearly establishes that the crime for which the defendant was convicted in a foreign jurisdiction would be a felony if committed in this state, courts are required to consider all of the available information in the record in deciding whether the foreign crime which, if committed in this state would be a felony."  Therefore, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that the district court legally erred in quashing the habitual offender bill filed by the State of Louisiana. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision of the appellate court, vacated the district court's judgment granting Hamdan's motion to quash, and remanded the case for further proceedings.


State of Louisiana v. Craig Oliphant, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-1176

The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to provide guidance on whether the offense of vehicular homicide fit the general definition of a "crime of violence" under La. R.S. § 14:2(B).  Craig Oliphant struck and killed a pedestrian while driving his vehicle in a highly intoxicated state.  Thereafter, Oliphant pled guilty to a violation of vehicular homicide and was sentenced to twenty-five (25) years at hard labor, with the first fifteen (15) years without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.  The district court also designated his conviction as a "crime of violence."  The appellate court affirmed the conviction, but reversed the portion of the sentence designating vehicular homicide a "crime of violence."  As such, the appellate court vacated the twenty-five (25) year sentence and remanded the matter for resentencing.  The Supreme Court of Louisiana found that vehicular homicide is a "crime of violence" because the offense involves the use of physical force and the substantial risk that force will be used against another person in the commission of the offense as well as the use of a dangerous weapon.  Since the Louisiana Supreme Court found no error in the district court's "crime of violence" designation, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the court of appeal and remanded the case to the district court for resentencing.


State of Louisiana v. Jeremy Patterson, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-2042

State of Louisiana v. Billy Lewis, Supreme Court of Louisiana, Docket No. 2012-K-1021

The Supreme Court of Louisiana just addressed two New Orleans homicide cases where the issue presented centered on the appropriate remedy for a defendant when he is prohibited, in violation of Article 799.1 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, from using a peremptory challenge to back strike a provisionally selected juror.  Each ruling of the court ultimately resulted in new trials.


In State of Louisiana v. Billy Lewis, the Supreme Court of Louisiana agreed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal's determination that the error is one which is subject to harmless error analysis.  The supreme court nevertheless found the court of appeal misapplied the harmless error standard of review.  Since the Supreme Court of Louisiana could not conclude with certainty that the guilty verdicts rendered in this case were surely unattributable to the district court's error in prohibiting Lewis from using a back strike to peremptorily challenge a provisionally selected juror, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the decision of the appellate court, vacated defendant's convictions and sentences, and remanded this matter to the district court for a new trial.


In State of Louisiana v. Jeremy Patterson, Patterson was charged by grand jury indictment with one count of second degree murder in 2008. After Patterson was convicted at trial and his counsel was prohibited from using a back strike to peremptorily challenge a provisionally selected juror, the Fourth Circuit of Appeal reversed Patterson's conviction, once again applying a harmless error analysis.  Much like the appelalte court, the Louisiana Supreme Court also found that the district court's error in denying the back strike was not harmless. Consequently, finding the court of appeal correctly applied a harmless error analysis to the facts of this case, the Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed the appellate court's decision, vacating Patterson's conviction and sentence, and remanding his case to the district court for a new trial.


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


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