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Showing posts from September, 2017

Double Jeopardy Claim Falls Short on Deferential Habeas Review

In the habeas matter of Wilkerson v. Superintendent Fayette SCI, Nos. 15-1598 & 15-2673, the Third Circuit defers to a state court determination that the defendant’s conviction of both an attempted murder count and an aggravated assault count based on the same altercation did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause.
The evidence was that during the altercation, the defendant both struck the victim in the head with a gun and shot him in the chest. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld consecutive sentences on the theory that the evidence was sufficient to permit a jury to find the striking to support one count and the shooting the other. Despite the jury instructions’ and verdict form’s failure to require each of these discrete findings, the Third Circuit holds that the state court’s reasoning was sound enough to withstand deferential review the AEDPA’s “clearly established Federal law” limitation. “[W]here the jury instructions were merely ambiguous and did not foreclose the jury…

Court Opens Door for Long-Timers Serving Mandatory Guidelines Sentences

In In re Hoffner, –F.3d–, 2017 WL 3908880, the Court today holds that persons sentenced in the bad ol’ days of the mandatory Guidelines may proceed on challenges under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to guideline enhancements resting on the same language held unconstitutionally vague in the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). The Circuit thus limits the sweep of Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886, where the high court held earlier this year that Johnson’s constitutional rule, invalidating a 15-year mandatory minimum provided by statute, has no application where a defendant was sentenced pursuant to a higher range under the advisory Guidelines system that came to be in 2005. Today’s green light is of profound significance to many, albeit far from all, defendants sentenced under the “career offender” guideline, which commonly doubles and can even triple the sentencing range.

Formally speaking, the Court rules that Hoffner, a federal prisone…