Criminal Law News - U.S. First Circuit
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Tomorrow marks the passing of one-year after the disturbing attack on runners and attendees of the Boston Marathon, allegedly carried out by the Tsarnaev brothers. One year later, and we are closer to trial, yet there may still be delays.

Attempts at finding out exactly what is happening in the case against the only surviving Tsarnaev brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are difficult at best to confirm because of the secrecy surrounding the trial. One look at the Public Access to Court Electronic Records database shows listing upon listing of sealed motions, with some of the court's orders inaccessible as well.

The First Circuit made headlines at the end of last week with news regarding two notorious Massachusetts convicted criminals, Gary Lee Sampson and Tarek Mehanna.

New Death Penalty Hearing

Gary Lee Sampson pleaded guilty to carjacking and killing three people, and a jury sentenced him to death in 2003, reports The Boston Globe. District court Judge Wolf vacated his sentence after he learned that "one of the jurors lied about her family's history with drugs and law enforcement," noting that "he would have excluded her if he had known," according to The Boston Globe.

On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed his decision.

The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island vacated the conviction of Charles Moreau, former mayor of Central Falls, a financially troubled Rhode Island city. On Friday, the ex-Mayor walked out of prison after serving about half of his two-year prison term, reports the Associated Press.

Illegal Gratuities?

In 2012 Moreau pleaded guilty to illegally accepting gratuities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666, and was sentenced to two-years' imprisonment on February 12, 2013. While serving his sentence, the First Circuit Court of Appeals decided an unrelated case, United States v. Fernandez, and held that 18 U.S.C. § 666 did not apply to the receipt of gratuities because, unlike quid pro quo, gratuities are "merely a reward for some future act ... or for a past act that he has already taken."

The First Circuit has been making national headlines for the past year, as all eyes wanted to see the fate of Whitey Bulger. Now, an equally (if not more) gripping case is progressing through the First Circuit -- the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a/k/a the surviving accused Boston Marathon bomber.

As we give you an update on this case, we also explain that the Supreme Court recently granted cert in an unrelated criminal case that could have far-reaching effects on our Fourth Amendment rights prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure.

ACLU Urges Mass. High Court to Dismiss All Annie Dookhan Cases

The ACLU of Massachusetts filed a petition with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to dismiss more than 40,300 criminal cases tainted by Annie Dookhan, the state chemist whose falsification of test results in drug cases led to the worst scandal to hit the criminal justice system in years.

Growing increasingly frustrated with the state's slow response to the massive due process ordeal, the ACLU filed a petition with the state's highest court requesting specific actions.

Do you know what limn means? Neither did I -- give me a break, it's been a few years since I studied for the SATs. In the absence of a great legal lesson from the First Circuit in recent days, instead, I just learned my word of the day.

In United States v. Floyd and United States v. Dion, two defendants, Catherine Floyd and William Scott Dion were tried together in a case involving tax fraud. Though the defendants raised five issues on appeal, the court basically showed us its hand when in the intro paragraph of the decision they stated that the defendants were "ably represented."

If that's not a spoiler alert, I don't know what is.

With the huge amount of habeas corpus claims that inundate courts, the First Circuit recently released an opinion that commented on the issue. And, in an interesting turn, instead of criticizing state courts for short, sometimes arguably unclear opinions, the First Circuit instead took issue with federal reviewing courts (yes you, District Court of Massachusetts).

In Hodge v. Mendonsa, the First Circuit had to determine whether the Massachusetts Appeals Court ("MAC") rejected an argument on its merits when the MAC did not expressly discuss the argument by name, and whether a theory is procedurally barred when addressed in a footnote.

Circuits with interesting cities within their jurisdiction always churn out interesting cases -- and with Boston in its purview, the First Circuit is an example of that.

With Boston making the news quite a bit this year, the First Circuit had its fair share of headlines. Not limited to newsy pieces, we also saw some law coming out of the First that is currently under review by the Supreme Court.

As we reflect on 2013, here's a quick rundown of the big issues of the past year, as we move forward into 2014:

In 2009, the Supreme Court decided Herring v. United States, a 5-4 decision that held the exclusionary rule does not apply to evidence that is obtained by police mistake and negligence, "rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements."

We are now seeing the Herring-effect make its way through the circuit courts.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, and last week, the First Circuit became the first federal appellate court to apply the holding, and "[t]he results are remarkable," says Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman in his article for Bloomberg.