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Showing posts from September, 2010

In trial for unlawful firearm possession, lack of jury instruction on affirmative defense of justification not plain error.

In Gov’t of V.I. v. Lewis, No. 09-3245 (3d Cir. Sept. 8, 2010), the Third Circuit refined its test for when a jury, in an unlawful possession of a firearm case, should be instructed to consider whether defendant’s possession was a legal necessity.

Lewis was involved in the fatal shooting of one Mackellis George, and was charged with first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. At trial, Lewis testified that after falling asleep at George’s home, he awoke to find George sexually assaulting him. Lewis left, returning a few days later to collect some belongings. When Lewis arrived, George became enraged. He brandished a firearm, fired shots into the ground, and ordered Lewis to get into the passenger seat of George’s car. While George was driving, he began insulting George and jabbing the gun into his head. A struggle ensued, the gun fired several times, Lewis gained control of the gun and shot George in self-defense.

At the close of trial, the Government and Lewis submitted p…

Third Circuit holds Fed. R. App. P. 4(b) not jurisdictional, and explicates the rule on questioning a defendant at trial on post-arrest silence.

In Gov’t of V.I. v. Martinez, No. 08-2694 (3d. Cir. Sept. 8, 2010) the Third Circuit clarified two rules, on procedural, one substantive.

The defendant was convicted in the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands for kidnapping for rape. The Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands affirmed.Martinez then appealed to the Third Circuit -- late. The procedural issue that the Third Circuit addressed was Martinez’s untimely filing of his notice of appeal.

The Court ruled that the time limitation in Federal Rule of Appellate 4(b), while a "rigid" deadline, is a claim-processing rule subject to forfeiture, and not jurisdictional. In other words, if a criminal defendant files a late notice of appeal, and the Government moves to dismiss the appeal for filing out of time, the Court will dismiss the appeal. But if the Government fails to make a motion to dismiss, or if the Government fails to respond to the Clerk’s Order requesting comment on possible lack of jurisd…

Third Circuit Denies Victim Mandamus: district court did not abuse discretion in denying motion to allow victim's attorney to appear at sentencing.

Professor Berman's post on this interesting Crime Victims' Rights Act case, including a link to the Third Circuit's opinion, is available at, in the blogging from Thursday, September 23, 2010. Short version: no abuse of discretion in denying motion to allow victim's attorney to appear at sentencing because district court recognized victim's right to be heard, and government was advocating for victim (e.g., by filing victim's request for restitution and attorneys fees).

New Impeachment Evidence Can Serve as Basis for New Trial When Evidence Suggests Defendant was Wrongly Convicted

In United States v. Quiles, Nos. 09-1667 and 09-1686 (August 17, 2010) , the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of a new trial based on a government witness’ subsequent indictment on sexual assault charges finding that this new evidence was merely impeaching evidence on an unrelated matter that did not go to the heart of the instant case.

Defendants were convicted of money laundering based largely on the testimony of a confidential informant who, following the trial, was indicted in an unrelated matter on charges of child rape and other sexual crimes. Defendants moved for a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. 33 and the district court denied the motion asserting the new evidence was inadmissible impeachment evidence citing United States v. Saada, 212 F.3d 210, 216 (3d Cir. 2000), that mere impeachment evidence could not form the basis for granting a new trial.

The Third Circuit applied a de novo standard of review and clarified their holding in Saada. The Court held that Rule …

Sex Offender Requirement to Admit Guilt as Condition of Parole Does Not Violate First Amendment, Due Process or Ex Post Facto

In Newman v. Beard, No. 08-2652 (August 16, 2010), the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of petitioner’s amended complaint which asserted that the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) requirement that sex offenders admit guilt as a prerequisite to entry into a treatment program, the completion of which is required to be eligible for parole under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9718.1, violates petitioner’s: 1) First Amendment right; 2) right to due process; and 3) the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution.

Newman was convicted of two rapes and related sexual offenses. While serving his sentence, Pennsylvania enacted new legislation requiring sex offenders to complete a treatment program to be eligible for parole. A DOC regulation required all inmates to admit guilt in order to attend the program. Newman, who exhausted all his direct and post-conviction appeals, refused to admit guilt and thus was denied entrance into a treatment program and further denied parole.

The Court …

Rehabilitative Needs Can Be Considered to Determine Whether to Revoke Supervised Release and the Duration of Imprisonment Upon Revocation

In United States v. Doe, No. 09-2615 (August 16, 2010), the Third Court affirmed revocation of Doe’s supervised release and imposition of a 24 month term of imprisonment followed by an additional 12 months supervised release on the basis that Congress intended, in 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e), that District Courts should consider a defendant’s medical and rehabilitative needs in assessing whether to revoke supervised release and the duration of imprisonment that is appropriate upon revocation.

Doe pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver five grams or more of crack cocaine and was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment followed by 4 years of supervised release, the terms of which provided that Doe may not possess or use a controlled substance. Doe violated these terms on several occasions by testing positive for use of cocaine. Following a third petition on revocation of supervised release, the district court revoked Doe’s supervised release explaining to the defendant that "...I a…