Criminal Law News - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
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Seven prison officers who had been accused of showing deliberate indifference to an inmate's suicide are protected by qualified immunity, the Eleventh Circuit ruled on Wednesday. After Darius James killed himself while awaiting trial, his mother sued the officers, alleging that they knew of James' suicide risk and did nothing.

James' mother had failed to show that individual officers had a subjective knowledge of the risk of suicide, the Eleventh Circuit found. While there was circumstantial evidence that prison officials generally may have been aware of James' suicide risk and may have mishandled his care, there was not enough evidence specific to the officers to counteract their qualified immunity.

If you sabotage your own trial, don't expect a successful appeal in the Eleventh. That's the lesson a Georgia man who stole over $4 million in a yearlong credit card scam learned the hard way, recently.

Jean-Daniel Perkins attempted to avoid conviction by refusing counsel and not attending his trial. Perkins thought he had found "one weird trick" to beat the legal system. And now, judges do hate him, and his tricks didn't work.


Don Siegelman, the former Governor of Alabama, lost his motion for a new trial last week. Siegelman was convicted of bribery, mail fraud and obstruction of justice in 2006, following an investigation that many Democrats argued was politically motivated, but which Republicans claimed revealed extensive corruption.

After a series of appeals, Siegelman moved for a new trial, based on allegations that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary participated in his prosecution after she had disqualified herself due to conflicts of interest. The Eleventh Circuit rejected his claims, finding that Canary's involvement did not deprive him of his right to a disinterested prosecutor.

Over the course of a few years, a high school student named J.S. began having a sexual relationship with his teacher, Thomas Keelan. Suspecting an inappropriate relationship, J.S.'s parents enrolled him in a treatment program. After completing the program, J.S. decided to cooperate with law enforcement.

J.S. made a wiretapped phone call to Keelan, who then drove down to Florida to have sex. Guess what? Busted!

After a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit ruled that there was a Fourth Amendment right to privacy in historical cell site data, the government requested and was granted an en banc rehearing.

Yesterday, the en banc court reversed the panel and found that there is no constitutional right to privacy in historical location information because cell phone location information is voluntarily conveyed to a third party -- the phone company.

A Georgia CEO will not escape his jail sentence after being found guilty of violating the U.S. trade embargo on Iran, the Eleventh Circuit held today. Mark Alexander, who manufactured and sold industrial machines, had been found guilty of trading with Iranian businesses.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and currently forbids virtually all trade with the country. At trial, Alexander claimed the government case against him was a "scam" and that he had been pressured to sell the goods by colleagues.

Given the success that John Oliver's HBO show "Last Week Tonight" had influencing the net neutrality conversation, maybe the private probation system will have some luck, too.

Thanks in part to Oliver, and to the Department of Justice report on Ferguson, Missouri, the nation knows that local police departments often charge defendants fines and fees well in excess of the original fines. These fees often include making a defendant pay for his own probation, and the proceeds usually go straight to the private probation company.

A federal class action complaint in Georgia, filed last week, wants to challenge that arrangement.

In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Eighth Amendment didn't allow for sentencing juvenile offenders to sentences of life without parole (LWOP) for non-homicide offenses. That's all well and good, but what about "de facto LWOP" sentences of 90 years, which would, in the case of one 17-year-old offender, get him out of prison at the ripe old age of 107?

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court issued opinions in four such juvenile life sentence cases, concluding that courts can't sentence juveniles to very long prison terms for non-homicide offenses.

A routine vehicle stop in Miami became anything but routine after a police officer shot a suspect in the groin -- for no apparent reason. Det. Carl Rousseau pulled over a car and reportedly saw the passenger, Robert Valderrama, throw something out the car window that turned out to be a crack pipe.

Even though Valderrama appeared to be compliant during the stop, Rousseau shot him in the groin (refer to the Eleventh Circuit opinion for more of the grisly details). Rousseau talked about the incident for three minutes with his partner, Sgt. Yasima Smith, before Smith called an ambulance, but she said only that there was "a laceration."

In Florida, it may be harder than ever to "catch a predator" in Florida. (See what I did there?) Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that surreptitiously recorded statements of child sexual abuse couldn't be admitted at trial.

Richard McDade, the petitioner in this case, was secretly recorded by his stepdaughter, whom he was sexually abusing. The statements amounted to McDade's admission that he was sexually abusing her. The trial court let the audio recordings in.