Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2010

Court Upholds Constitutionality of "SORNA"

In United States v. Shenandoah, No. 09-1205 (Feb. 9, 2010), the Third Circuit confronted one of what it called “hundreds of similar challenges” filed in federal courts to the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). In one fell swoop, it rejected a broad range of constitutional challenges in the case of a defendant convicted of statutory rape a decade before the law’s enactment in 2006.

Upon being paroled, Paul Shenandoah registered as a sex offender under the law of New York State, where he had been convicted. In August of 2007, he moved to Pennsylvania for employment as an iron worker. He did not register in that state as a sex offender or modify his New York registration to reflect his change of residence and employment. SORNA, as construed by the Court, requires persons in his position to keep their registration current on and after July 27, 2006. The defendant entered a conditional guilty plea reserving the right to appeal the district court’s rejection of…

Circuit Reverses Grant of Acquittal in Drug Conspiracy

United States v. Boria, No. 08-2550, 2009 WL 282088 (Jan. 26, 2010). Following a jury verdict of guilty on charges of aiding and abetting and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, the district court entered a judgment of acquittal, finding the evidence of his knowledge of the objective of the conspiracy, i.e. the transportation of cocaine, insufficient. The Circuit reversed, holding that the conconspirator’s "crucial" testimony, combined with suspicious circumstances under which defendant became involved with the tractor-trailer carrying the drugs, established that defendant knew drugs were involved.

The evidence at trial showed that another conspirator, Diaz, brought to Philadelphia a tractor-trailer which contained one hundred kilograms of cocaine. A DEA informant, Alvarado, received a phone call from another conspirator, Morel, who was searching for a garage which could fit a tractor-trailer for unloading. Alvarado met with Morel and four other Mexican n…

Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for State Defendants in Delaware Lethal Injection Case

Jackson v. Danberg, No. 09-1925 and 09-2052 (Feb. 1, 2010). In a § 1983 class action challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection in Delaware, neither (1) Delaware’s record of errors in implementing its execution protocol, nor (2) the absence of a planned alternative to peripheral venous access, show a substantial risk of serious harm under the standard announced in Baze v. Rees. The District Court’s order of summary judgment for the state defendants is affirmed, and the stay of executions pending appeal is dissolved.

In this long (47-page) opinion, the Third Circuit holds that the practice of lethal injection in Delaware is constitutional under Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35 (2008). The Supreme Court held in Baze that the standard governing method-of-execution claims brought under § 1983 is whether the challenged practice poses a "substantial risk of serious harm" to the condemned prisoner. Finding no such risk in Delaware, the Third Circuit affirms the District Court’s …

Court Upholds Denial of IA Claim: No Evidentiary Hearing was Necessary and Petitioner Failed to Show Prejudice

In Palmer v. Hendricks, No. 06-2991 (3rd Cir. Jan. 26, 2010), the Third Circuit affirms the district court’s denial of habeas relief on Palmer’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of his right to testify. Petitioner failed to show prejudice resulting from counsel’s failure to advise him of his right to testify, where petitioner’s factual proffer regarding this ineffectiveness claim did not include a proffer of his testimony, had he received proper advice and chosen to testify.

The Circuit also affirmed the District Court’s denial of an evidentiary hearing on this claim. Palmer raised this claim in state post-conviction proceedings, and the state court held that, based on the record, Palmer had been informed sufficiently during trial of his right to testify. The state court based this on the transcript, which showed one time trial counsel requested and received time to consult with his client, and also showed that the judge read to Palmer, and later t…