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Showing posts from September, 2013

Death of Habeas Petitioner Moots Petition

In William A. Keitel v. Joseph Mazurkiewicz, et al., No. 12-4027 (3d Cir. Aug. 30, 2013), Appellant Ketiel filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 in the Western District of Pennsylvania, after he had been found guilty of various crimes in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in 1998, and both his direct appeal and PCRA action in the Pennsylvania courts had been unsuccessful. The District Court denied his petition, and Keitel appealed. Shortly before the appeal was scheduled to be heard, the parties notified the Court of Appeals that Keitel had died. Appellees sought to dismiss the appeal as moot; Keitel's family wanted to continue the appeal to "clear his name."

The Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's order denying the petition, remanding with instructions to dismiss as moot. The Court held that Keitel, having died, was no longer "in custody", thus rendering his habeas petition moot.

Sentencing courts are not limited to charged conduct, but may consider defendant's actual conduct, in determining whether defendant violated his supervised release

In United States v. Khalil Carter, Nos. 12-3754 & 12-3755 (3d Cir. Sept. 13, 2013), the Third Circuit addressed the question of what evidence a sentencing court may consider in the revocation context for determining the grade of a charged violation. Appellant Carter was charged with two violations of supervised release. One, a new state conviction for access device fraud, was indisputably a Grade B violation. The other, new state convictions for misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of a minor, was also a B violation unless the district court found that the offenses constituted crimes of violence as forcible sex offenses, which would result in a Grade A violation of supervised release. A Grade B violation resulted in a sentencing range of 6 to 12 months, while a Grade A violation produced a sentencing range of 27 to 33 months imprisonment.

In making its determination that Carter's misdemeanor charges constituted crimes of violence, the district examined…

Third Circuit abandons judicial use immunity for defense witnesses and finds that government's refusal to immunize co-defendant did not violate defendant's due process rights

In United States v. Quinn, No. 11-1733 (Aug. 14, 2013) (en banc), the Third Circuit joined every other federal Court of Appeals in rejecting the use of judicial grants of immunity for defense witnesses. Defendant Quinn was convicted after a jury trial for aiding and abetting co-defendant Shawn Johnson in an armed bank robbery. Quinn's defense was that he did not know Johnson intended to rob a bank teller at gunpoint. Quinn believed Johnson would testify on his behalf at trial, but Johnson, who was awaiting sentencing on the robbery charges, invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to testify. The district court refused to immunize Johnson and Quinn appealed.

On appeal, Quinn argued that the district court erred in refusing to immunize Johnson and that the government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by postponing Johnson's sentencing until after Quinn's trial in order to induce Johnson not to testify. The Third Circuit has recognized two situations where a crim…

Bad cop who is convicted of civil rights violation “distributed” drugs when he planted drugs on those he arrested and thus court did not err in applying the drug trafficking guideline.

United States v. Figueroa, No. 12-3575 (September 3, 2013). Defendant Figueroa was a Camden police officer who, along with other officers, planted drugs on and stole money from people he arrested. After trial, he was convicted of civil rights violations under 18 USC §§ 241 & 242 and he was sentenced to 10 years. Third Circuit affirmed both conviction and sentence.

District court did not err in using the drug trafficking guideline to calculate the range. USSG § 2H1.1 applies to civil rights violations. Under § 2H1.1(a), the base offense level is the highest of certain options including "the offense level from the offense guideline applicable to the underlying offense." Here, defendant’s actions of planting drugs on individuals fit the meaning of "distribute" under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) – transfer of a controlled substance from one person or place to another (statute carves out exception for cops lawfully engaged in law enforcement – but that exception doesn’t…