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D.C. Circuit Affirms Prison Sentence Imposed After Acquittal

The D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that found a man's prison sentence constitutional even though it was imposed by a judge after he was acquitted by the jury.

In U.S. v Jones, the D.C. Circuit relies on precedent that basically states a sentencing court can base a sentence on acquitted conduct without violating the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.

No one likes wiretaps, but the D.C. Circuit isn't particularly fond of wiretap warrants which are facially deficient. And the remedy in U.S. v. Glover was a new trial.

You can't exactly blame the court for its inclinations; an obviously legally lacking warrant that is executed to spy on domestic suspects isn't exactly the fantasy of any enlightened democracy.

So why exactly did the D.C. Circuit knock this case back to trial?

While the D.C. Circuit may be withholding any sort of published opinion from us all -- was it something we said? -- oral arguments are going off without a hitch.

As September wraps up and October begins, we take a look at three cases in oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit: a birther defamation suit, a Medicare adjustment case, and the conviction of Bin Laden's publicist.

These oral arguments may be setting the stage for a momentous 2013 - 2014 session.

Imagine one minute you’re being accused of conspiracy to deal large amounts of heroin, and the next minute the prosecutor at your trial is calling you Tony Montana from “Scarface” in closing arguments.

In U.S. v. Antonio Valdez (aka Tony), Appellant Antonio Valdez didn’t have to imagine too hard after the same stunt was pulled at his federal drug trial, and although the D.C. Circuit frowned on it, they didn’t believe the prosecutor’s movie trivia shenanigans were worth a new trial.

Hussain v. Obama and the D.C. Circuit: The Duck Test

In Hussain v. Obama, A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit has affirmed the district court’s decision to deny Guantanamo detainee Abdul al Qader Ahmed Hussain’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The court determined that the habeas court’s findings of fact were not “clearly erroneous.” Instead, the court found the findings support the conclusion that Hussain was more likely than not a member of enemy forces.

Should what goes on in the jury room stay in the jury room? Not always, according to a recent D.C. Court of Appeals opinion on post-verdict challenges of juror misconduct. The court has carved out an exception to the No-Impeachment Rule when there is an allegation of racial or ethnic bias.

The court’s decision allowing judges to investigate jurors is narrow; only when substantial allegations of racial or ethic bias affect a defendant’s constitutional rights. In this case, the judge did not err in inquiring about jurors after a verdict was made. There was a valid question as to whether the constitutional right of the defendant was in jeopardy based on an allegation of racial or ethnic bias of one juror.

Lie-Riddled Search Warrant Survives Motion to Suppress

Police officers executed a search warrant for Jared Cardoza’s apartment and seized more than 200 grams of cocaine, more than 300 grams of marijuana, a Beretta 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol, a Colt .357 revolver, more than $100,000 in cash, and a variety of drug paraphernalia.

Yikes. You don’t want to be that guy, right?

After the government obtained a grand jury indictment against Cardoza for federal drug trafficking and firearm offenses, he moved to suppress the evidence found in his apartment. According to Cardoza, the police officer who prepared the search warrant affidavit made false statements in the affidavit with reckless disregard for the truth.

Lawyers Should Explain the Sentencing Safety Valve

The safety valve authorizes a sentencing judge to impose a term of imprisonment lower than a statutory minimum if the defendant meets five specified qualifications. One of those qualifications is cooperating with the government. A defendant who qualifies for the safety valve is also entitled to a two-point reduction in his offense level.

While the courts adhere to a "no cooperation, no reduction" policy, an uncooperative defendant can get a second shot at sentencing if his lawyer never bothered telling him about the sentencing safety valve, according to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

No Reduction for Crack Sentence 'Based on' Plea Agreement

The legal system incentivizes plea bargaining. A defendant typically gets a lighter sentence for accepting responsibility for his actions.

But a recent decision from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could make plea bargains much more specific.

ASA Loses Medical Marijuana Reclassification Appeal

Marijuana needs a good PR campaign. Perhaps something to the effect of "Pot: It's Not as Dangerous as Heroin."

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) tried to give medical marijuana that much-needed public relations boost. Last fall, the group told the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Drug Enforcement Administration's most recent classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance was arbitrary and capricious because a number of studies support the use of medical marijuana. This week, the appellate court ruled against the ASA, concluding that the feds didn't act improperly in refusing to loosen restrictions on pot.