Sunday, July 17, 2011

Criminal Case Law Update, Week Ending 7-8-11

The following criminal cases of note were decided this week:

Washington State Law

Washington State Supreme Court

State v. Eserjose: The Court affirmed Mr. Eserjose’s conviction for second degree burglary, holding that even though officers exceeded the scope of the invitation to enter the home and arrested Mr. Eserjose in a private area, thus rendering the arrest illegal, Mr. Eserjose’s confession was nevertheless properly admitted. The Court found that the confession was sufficiently attenuated from the arrest so as to not be fruit of the poisonous tree, because the confession was not attributable to the illegal arrest.

In a concurrence, Justice Madsen agreed that the Court reached the correct result in admitting Mr. Eserjose’s confession because deputies did not obtain the confession by exploiting any unlawful act. However, the justice wrote separately to argue that the lead opinion applies an attenuation analysis where none is required.

In a dissent, Justice Charles Johnson argued that the lead opinion’s allowance of an attenuation exception to the exclusionary rule “effectively removes the incentive for police officers to secure a warrant before invading a citizen's home and offers no remedy for the constitutional violation.” The dissent further argued that the attenuation exception was at odds with the protections given by article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. The dissent pointed out that, “[j]ust like the inevitable discovery exception rejected in Winterstein and the good faith exception rejected in Afana, this attenuation exception allows illegally obtained evidence to be admitted.” Instead, the dissent argued, any evidence obtained in violation of a person’s constitutional rights lacks authority of law and must be suppressed.

State v. Jones: The Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of credit towards Mr. Jones’ sentence of community custody for time he spent incarcerated in excess of his amended sentence of incarceration. In so holding, the Court overruled Division Three’s 2008 holding in In Re Knippling, under which that court found that community custody begins at completion of the sentence of confinement and the offender is therefore entitled to credit toward a sentence of community custody for time spent incarcerated in excess of the sentence of incarceration. The Court reasoned that Division Three’s holding ignores the plain language of the sentencing reform act, which specifies that any period of community custody shall toll during any period of time the offender is in confinement "for any reason." The Court found that requiring community custody to begin upon release from confinement is consistent with the statutory definition of "community custody" requiring it to be served in the community.

In a dissent, Justice Stephens argued that the statute clearly stated that Mr. Jones term of community custody was set to begin upon the tem of incarceration, and that the additional 30 days that Mr. Jones was wrongfully confined beyond the term of his sentence should have been credited toward his term of community custody. The dissent further pointed out that there were provisions in the sentencing reform act allowing for such wrongful detention to be applied to community custody, but none that required tolling of the term of community custody during incarceration.

State v. Donaghe: The Court affirmed the denial of Mr. Donaghe’s motion for a certificate of discharge to restore his voting rights. The Court found that the trial court had the authority to deny his motion, that the community placement portion of his sentence was properly tolled during his pre-commitment confinement and civil confinement as a sexually violent predator at the Special Commitment Center, and Mr. Donaghe was therefore not unconstitutionally disenfranchised.

In a dissent, Justice Stephens argued that Mr. Donaghe’s detention under a civil commitment scheme should not have triggered the tolling provisions under the SRA. The dissent argued that the tolling statute and the definition of confinement that triggers such tolling are contained in the SRA and apply to provisions therein, not to an unrelated civil commitment scheme. The dissent noted that by extending the tolling provisions to SVP commitment the majority threatened to go down a slippery slope that could include mental health detention or voluntary inpatient treatment at a State-contracted center. The dissent concluded that Mr. Donaghe had served out his term of community placement at the conclusion of his sentence, and should have been granted a certificate of discharge.

Division Two Court of Appeals

State v. Wilson: The court declined to allow Ms. Wilson to withdraw her guilty plea, finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in initially denying her motion to withdraw the plea. Though Ms. Wilson’s case was not yet final when the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Gant, the Court held that Ms. Wilson’s guilty plea foreclosed subsequent challenges to alleged constitutional violations. The Court held that a “'guilty plea waives or renders irrelevant all constitutional violations that occurred before the guilty plea, except those related to the circumstances of the plea or to the government's legal power to prosecute regardless of factual guilt.'" Citing State v. Amos, 147 Wn. App. 217, 225-26, 195 P.3d 564 (2008). Finally, the Court noted that the United States Supreme Court has also rejected the proposition that a change in law invalidates a guilty plea. The Court found that Ms. Wilson did not challenge her plea on permissible collateral grounds and had waived a Gant challenge.

State v. Mosteller: In this partially published opinion, the court held that because Mr. Mosteller failed to object to the administration of antipsychotic medications during trial, he waived his right to challenge the trial court’s order on appeal and, further, due to Mr. Mosteller’s failure to object, there was no evidence he was actually forcibly medicated during the trial. Further, the Court found that the trial court’s administration of the medications without first considering all of the Sell factors did not prevent Mr. Mosteller from receiving a fair trial.

Division Three Court of Appeals

State v. Chavez: The Court found ineffective assistance of counsel in the entry of Mr. Chavez’ guilty plea, and reversed the trial court’s denial of Mr. Chavez’ motion to withdraw the plea. The Court found that the filing of an “Anders brief” by substitute counsel after Mr. Chavez’ original counsel was allowed to withdraw based on a potential conflict of interest that did not develop any potential claim of conflict following the withdrawal of the original lawyer and suggested that counsel believed his client’s claim was frivolous constituted ineffective assistance. The Court observed that an Anders brief is allowed on appeal but there is no precedent or other authority for the use of such a brief in a trial court.

In a dissent, Judge Korsmo argued that Mr. Chavez presented his argument for withdrawing his guilty plea to the trial court, and the trial court correctly determined that no manifest necessity existed for withdrawing the guilty plea. Therefore, the dissent argued that the judgment should have been affirmed.

State v. Contreras: The court upheld Mr. Contreras’ conviction for possession of a stolen car and the suspension of his driver’s license because the crime involved the use of that car. The Court concluded that the statute of limitations had not run on the offense, despite the fact that Mr. Contreras took possession of the car in 2004, because he continued to possess and use the car up to the date he was charged with the crime. Further, the Court found that the car was used for purposes of a statute that required suspension of a driver’s license when a vehicle is used in the commission of a crime when Mr. Contreras drove the vehicle to a licensing station to attempt to relicense the vehicle using false VIN tags from his old car.

Federal Law

United States Supreme Court

United States v. Juvenile Male: In a per Curiam opinion, the Court dismissed as moot an appeal from a Court of Appeals holding that the requirements of SORNA violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution when applied to juveniles adjudicated as delinquent before SORNA’s enactment. The Court concluded that the Court of Appeals had no authority to enter such a judgment because it had no live controversy before it, as the defendant at issue had turned 21 and his registration requirement under SORNA had ceased prior to the hearing of the appeal. The court reasoned that there was no continuing injury or collateral consequence to allow the defendant to continue an appeal beyond the expiration of his sentence. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor argued for remand to the Ninth Circuit for determination of whether the case was moot in the first instance. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Garcia v. Texas: In a per Curiam opinion, the Court declined to give Mr. Garcia a stay of execution imposed upon his conviction for rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. The Court disagreed with Mr. Garcia’s argument that his conviction was obtained in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Vienna Convention). The Court found that Mr. Garcia’s argument is foreclosed by MedellĂ­n v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court held that the Avena decision by the International Court of Justice finding that a court had violated the Vienna Convention by failing to advise a defendant of his right to consular assistance was not directly enforceable law, and found similarly with regard to the President’s Memorandum purporting to implement that decision. The Court likewise declined requests by the United States to stay the execution so that Congress may consider whether to enact legislation implementing the Avena decision.

In a dissent written by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan argued in favor of the stay of execution. The dissent argued that following through with the execution would place the United States in “irreparable breach of its obligations under international law.” The dissent pointed out that the United States has ratified the Vienna Convention and is therefore bound to inform an arrested foreign national, such as Mr. Garcia, that he has a right to request the assistance of his country’s consulate. The dissent observed that the Court is ignoring “the appeal of the President in a matter related to foreign affairs,” substitutes its own views about the likelihood of congressional action for the views of the Executive Branch officials who have consulted with Members of Congress, and it denies the request by four Members of the Court to delay the execution until the Court can discuss the matter at Conference in September.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

United States v. Gonzalez-Melchor: The Court reversed and remanded Mr. Gonzalez-Melchor’s conviction and sentence for re-entry after deportation, finding that the immigration judge failed to advise Mr. Gonzalez-Melchor of his eligibility for voluntary departure and remanding for proceedings to determine whether Mr. Gonzalez-Melchor was prejudiced by this failure. The Court further found that the appeal waiver signed by Mr. Gonzalez-Melchor at sentencing in exchange for a reduced sentence is invalid and unenforceable.

Hurles v. Ryan: The court reversed the district court’s denial of Mr. Hurles’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his murder conviction and death sentence. Specifically, the court reversed the district court’s denial of Mr. Hurles’ judicial bias claim, finding that the trial judge’s action in becoming involved as a party in an interlocutory appeal, attempted but was denied standing to appear as an adversary, and then presided over Mr. Hurles’ murder trial and single-handedly determined his death sentence demonstrated bias and forced the court to conclude that Mr. Hurles was denied his right to due process. The Court remanded to the district court with instructions to grant a writ of habeas corpus as to Petitioner’s sentence unless the State of Arizona elects, within 90 days of the issuance of the mandate, to resentence Petitioner before a jury and presided over by a judge other than the original sentencing judge in this case.

In a dissent, Judge Ikuta argued that the Court’s decision ignores AEDPA’s command to defer to a state court decision unless it is objectively unreasonable, and argued that the AEDPA analysis here is straightforward. The dissent reported that, in an appeal of a denial of Mr. Hurles’ motion for appointment of a second attorney, the state Attorney General submitted a brief in the trial judge’s name defending the ruling. It was this participation that Mr. Hurles, over seven years later, claimed violated his due process rights and merited the judge’s recusal from further participation in this case. The trial judge denied that motion. The dissent observed that there is no clearly established Supreme Court authority that even hints the trial court’s decision was wrong, and argued that the court should have deferred to the trial court decision and denied Mr. Hurles’ petition.

United States v. Evanston: In a case of first impression, the Court held that a district court may not, over defense objection after the administration of an unsuccessful Allen charge, inquire into the reasons for a trial jury’s deadlock and then permit supplemental argument focused on those issues, where the issues in dispute are factual rather than legal. The Court concluded that allowing such a procedure in a criminal trial is an abuse of the discretion accorded district courts in the management of jury deliberations. The Court reasoned that allowing such supplemental argument addressing factual matters permitted counsel to look inside the jury’s deliberations and focus arguments to those factual concerns the court had asked the jury to reveal, the process, in form and substance, invaded the jury’s deliberations, resulting in impermissible coercion. The court vacated the verdict and remanded for a new trial.

United States v. Rahman: The Court held that Mr. Rahman’s waiver of his right to appeal his conviction extended to the denial of his subsequent motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The Court reasoned that an appeal from the denial of his motion to withdraw his plea is an appeal from his convictions. Further, the Court found that Mr. Rahman’s waiver of his right to appeal was made voluntarily and there was no evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel. However, the Court left open the possibility that Mr. Rahman might raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a subsequent collateral attack.

Schleining v. Thomas: The Court held that a prisoner is not eligible for federal Good Conduct Time (GCT) for time he served in state prison on state charges, before being sentenced on a related charge in federal court. The Court found that GCT can accrue only on the time a prisoner has “actually served” on his federal sentence, and other jurisdictions have determined that a federal sentence cannot begin before the defendant has been sentenced in federal court. The Court found the logic of those jurisdictions persuasive, and adopted it in this case. The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Mr. Schleining’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus and found that the formerly calculated release date is correct.

United States v. Snyder: Mr. Snyder appealed the district court’s determination that second degree burglary in Oregon was a predicate offense under the ACCA for purposes of imposing a sentencing enhancement. The government cross-appealed the district court’s decision that a conviction for felony attempt to elude in Oregon was not a predicate offense under the ACCA. The Court found that the district court was correct that the Oregon burglary conviction was a predicate offense under the modified categorical approach despite precedent to the contrary, as the original indictment together with the judgment of conviction proved that Mr. Snyder necessarily admitted to facts constituting generic burglary, which is a predicate offense under the ACCA. Additionally, the Court found that the felony attempt to elude conviction was a violent felony under the ACCA. The Court then remanded for resentencing under the mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, with credit for time served.

United States v. Chapman: The Court upheld the district court’s refusal to award Mr. Chapman and his co-defendants attorneys fees under the Hyde Amendment as a result of a dismissed indictment with prejudice for the government’s failure to meet its disclosure obligations under Brady in this securities fraud matter. The defendants had moved to re-open the case after a previous denial of an attorney fee award, citing the discovery of an internal government memorandum written shortly after dismissal of the indictment but not discovered until after the Ninth Circuit had decided the prior appeal. The Court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to reopen the case. In so concluding, the Court reasoned that the memo discovered by the defense “does not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that the government’s failure to disclose impeachment evidence suggested substantive weakness in the merits of the case that made the failure to disclose relevant to innocence.” To the contrary, the Court found that the district court had made clear that the initial dismissal was intended as a sanction for misconduct, and not as a judgment on the merits that could render the defendants prevailing parties for the purposes of an attorney fee award.