Criminal Law News - U.S. Eighth Circuit
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Facebook is not your friend or confidant. It does not keep your secrets. So, it's probably a bad idea to broadcast your potential crimes all over the social network. Too many bungling criminals learn this the hard way, whether it's taunting the police online, posting from stolen electronics, or simply contradicting court testimony.

Brandy Lemons was no different. After Lemons was diagnosed with a pain disorder that limited her activities, she began receiving disability payments from the Social Security Administration. Yet, despite her debilitating condition, Lemons' Facebook showed her hunting game with a bow and riding an ATV.

Julian Mitchell appealed his felon-in-possession charge with a classic argument: his mom was too mentally incompetent to consent to the search of her own house. The Eighth Circuit reviewed the appeal with an appropriate amount of sympathy for the poor guy.

Nebraska Abolishes Death Penalty

Big news from Nebraska! The state legislature voted 30-19 to override the veto of Governor Pete Ricketts, thereby abolishing the death penalty in that state.

Nebraska is the first conservative state in 40 years to abolish the death penalty, The New York Times reported, and the vote cut across party lines.

An Iowa woman won't be allowed to withdraw a plea agreement she says she was pressured to accept, the Eighth Circuit ruled yesterday. After a heroin user overdosed and died, a police investigation identified Lacresia White as the decedent's supplier. Following a series of undercover buys, which may have involved White's six year old daughter, police arrested White and charged her with conspiracy to distribute heroin that lead to death.

White accepted a plea deal that would help her avoid a 20 year sentence, but quickly regretted it. That was too late, the Eighth Circuit ruled. Since White could allege no coercion aside from family pressure, she put forward no "fair and just" reason to withdraw her plea.

Roderick Nunley pleaded guilty to the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 15-year-old in 1989. The state court judge sentenced him to death. Nunley had argued, before the Eight Circuit, that his capital sentence was a violation of state and federal precedent, since he was sentenced to death without a jury. According to Nunley, state and federal Supreme Court precedent required a jury sentencing for a death penalty to be permissible.

Not so, ruled the Eighth, which found that Nunley had unequivocally waived his right to a jury sentencing when he plead guilty.

What can you get from two marijuana roaches with leftover weed, blunt paper, cigarillo wrappers, and 2 baggie knots pulled from the trash? No, it's not the worst Christmas present ever -- it's probable cause!

A few scraps of marijuana and paraphernalia recovered after searching through thirteen -- thirteen! -- bags of trash weren't the evidence of crack dealing that cops sought, but they were enough to support a warrant to search the house, the Eighth Circuit ruled on Monday.

The Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juvenile offenders violate the Eight Amendment. The question immediately arose: would juveniles who had received such sentences before the ruling be able to have their sentences revisited?

No, according to the Eighth. Miller does not require courts to revisit sentences given prior to the ruling, the Eighth Circuit held on Monday. Prisoners who were given mandatory sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed as children cannot have those sentences retroactively changed. The case is especially noteworthy, as the Supreme Court granted cert this march on the same issue, in a case arising from Louisiana.

The Eight Circuit has upheld the conviction, on sexual abuse and molestation charges, of a South Dakota man found to have abused several young girls, including his nieces, near the Rosebud Indian Reservation.

Randy Never Misses A Shot had been convicted of five counts of child related sexual abuse. He appealed, arguing, in part, that the court had erred in allowing six witnesses to testify about similar sexual assaults he committed and in refusing to allow him to introduce evidence that one of his alleged victims had been previously molested by others.

The Eight Circuit affirmed his conviction, rejecting his claims.

Ferguson is Burning While Questions Remain About Unusual Grand Jury

Ferguson is burning. The first night's casualties are in: dozens of burned and looted businesses in Ferguson, two police cruisers burned, bottles and rocks tossed at police officers and reporters alike, riots, sixty-one arrests, and more National Guard troops on the way, reports CNN and The New York Times.

And the riots weren't confined to Ferguson: reports of riots and looting popped up in even the most far away places, like Oakland, California, where protestors shut down the I-580 freeway, looted, and set fires as well, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Why? The disputed tale of the death of Michael Brown, alternatively portrayed as an aggressor who attacked a police officer or as the victim of an execution-style murder. After an unusual grand jury featuring "all the evidence" and testimony from Office Darren Wilson, there is no indictment -- only pain, protests, riots, and unanswered questions.

Iowa Supreme Court Reverses Lawyer's DUI Conviction

Hopefully, all of us know that jailhouse phone calls are recorded. This presents a problem for attorney/client communications, which are privileged. Iowa has a statute requiring police to inform an arrested suspect in jail of his right to a confidential, in-person conference with his attorney once the suspect requests privacy for the communication.

That didn't happen in the case of David Hellstern. After he was arrested for DUI, an officer denied his request for privacy during a phone call and didn't fulfill his statutory obligation to tell Hellstern he had a right to a private, in-person conference.