5th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
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Is Making a Terror Threat a Crime of Moral Turpitude?

In a case that circles around the question of whether making terrorist threats is a crime of moral turpitude, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals moved against the majority convention and remanded the BIA case to be reviewed under a correct application of law.

This is a good opportunity for immigration lawyers to understand the applicable law for their next IJ hearing.

Retired Army Officer Defrauded U.S. Gov't, 5th Circuit Says

It's a disgraceful ending after years in the service, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to disturb a lower court's criminal conviction of a retired U.S. Army Colonel who was earlier found by a jury to have knowingly defrauded the US government.

Sixteen counts of wire fraud will be difficult to overcome, no doubt.

5th Circuit Ruling in Lawyer Speech Case Is a Teachable Moment

A recent Fifth Circuit ruling can be regarded as a teachable moment to attorneys who do not strictly adhere to local court rules governing attorney interactions with previous clients. In general, an attorney cannot make out of court statements that could reasonably be foreseen to have a material prejudicial effect on the administration of justice.

Although this sounds like a restraint on speech, lawyers would do well to heed this general rule lest they risk angering the ethics board.

Innocent Man Gets Vindicated on Claim Against Detective

In a very unfortunate case of mistaken identity, an innocent man spent nearly two decades sitting in state custody for a crime that he conclusively did not commit. Darrin Hill was acquitted after DNA proved that he could not have been the perpetrator of decades' old assault and rape.

When he sued the city on various claims, issues arose as the level of qualified immunity individuals involved in the Hill's criminal investigation would enjoy.

Texas's highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, dismissed abuse of power charges against former Governor Rick Perry on Wednesday, bringing to an end a long-running battle over Perry's actions while in office.

A grand jury had indicted Perry in 2014, charging him with abusing the power of the governor's office by pressuring a state district attorney to step down and vetoing financing for the anti-corruption office she helmed.

Ray Nagin's Call for New Trial Is 'Meritless,' 5th Cir. Rules

Remember former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin? He was chared and convicted of corruption charges in 2014 and is currently serving his sentence in federal prison in Texas.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled against Nagin, essentially laughing off his calls for a new trial based on incorrect jury instructions. The circuit called this claim "meritless."

A Texas death row inmate won't be able to file a successive habeas petition, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Monday. Clinton Lee Young, who was convicted of killing two men for their cars in 2001, had sought authorization to submit a second federal habeas petition based on new claims of prosecutorial misconduct and recently discovered evidence.

The Fifth Circuit refused his request, however, finding that Young's new allegations had largely already been litigated and that, further, any new evidence advanced was not convincing enough to require another habeas hearing.

Louisiana cannot revoke sentence-shortening "good-time credits" earned by prisoners based on legal changes that occurred after a prisoner's initial sentencing, the Fifth Circuit ruled this week.

The court granted habeas relief for Richard Price, who was sentenced for armed robbery in Louisiana in 1985, and lost all of his good-time credit after he violated parole conditions. That was an unconstitutional ex post facto application of the law, the Fifth held.

A Texas man convicted for possession and distribution of child pornography won't have his sentenced revisited, the Fifth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Peter Groce had been convicted for receiving child pornography, with a sentencing enhancement for distributing child porn in a bartered exchange.

Groce's child porn crimes were committed through peer-to-peer file sharing programs -- the kind that are often used to share bootlegged music or movies. Since those programs don't involve direct communication, there was a question as to whether the "bargaining" enhancement could apply. With Groce, the Fifth officially adopted the rule that it does.

The federal government's "reverse sting" operation on five defendants was not entrapment or a violation of due process, the Fifth Circuit held on Monday, in an unpublished decision.

The defendants' unlucky story began when the group met with a disgruntled cocaine trafficker, Richard Zayas. Zayas was looking for help in robbing a stash house and the crew was happy to provide it.