Criminal Law News - U.S. First Circuit
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"[T]he district court's definition just won't fly," Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson wrote in not even the first of several puns in a case about making a false report of a bomb threat on an airplane.

In a 2-1 split, a First Circuit panel reversed a former flight attendant's conviction for making false threats, finding the federal district court erred when it defined "malice" for the jury as not requiring an "evil purpose."

Three times, attorneys for alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal district court in Boston to change the venue for the trial, arguing that he couldn't get a fair shake in the city where the bombing took place in 2013. The district court denied his request, which meant the ball ended up in the First Circuit's court.

On February 27, a split panel denied Tsarnaev's petition for a writ of mandamus -- again -- acknowledging that "any high-profile case will receive significant media attention" but nevertheless concluding that Tsarnaev didn't meet the criteria for showing "clear and indisputable, irreparable harm."

Jury selection begins today in the most talked-about trial of the year, the murder trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who stands accused of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260.

Rarely has just the jury selection of a case brought with it such media attention -- but then again, this is the Boston bombing case. To fuel your desire for news about what's going on, here are five fast and interesting facts as jury selection gets underway:

The case of alleged Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev continues to reach its scheduled fever pitch on January 5, when the federal trial against him is set to commence.

On December 18, Tsarnaev will appear live, in court, for the first time since he was arraigned last July, reports The Boston Herald. The December 18 hearing marks the final pre-trial conference. But that's not all that's happening. Here's an update on Tsarnaev's legal saga:

Fun Opinion Reverses Conviction for Accidental Firearm Possession

If there's one thing I think of when I think of the First Circuit, it's the judges' unique writing styles. We've spent a lot of ink praising the unique stylings of Senior Judge Bruce Selya, but he's not the only person whose opinions stand out -- his successor, Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, really deserves a shout-out as well.

Take today's opinion for instance. She starts with this:

Foster Starks, Jr. was not having a good day. First, he learned that his son had been arrested, then he was tasked with the unenviable job of retrieving a rental car from the son's irate girlfriend. Lastly, as he was nearing home that night, he saw a State Trooper's blue lights reflected in the rental's rearview mirror. So one could say that the cherry on the cake of Starks's day was the Trooper's discovery of the bag on the seat beside him -- containing, as it did, a gun and two boxes of ammunition.

It's great storytelling, and the ending ought to brighten Starks' otherwise bad streak of luck.

Terry stops allow a police officer to briefly detain someone if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the suspect is, or was recently, involved in criminality. An officer can conduct a Terry frisk if he has reason to believe the suspect is armed and dangerous.

The purpose of a Terry stop is to confirm or deny the officer's reasonable suspicion. Against that backdrop comes United States v. Arthur. Two black men wearing dark clothing robbed a Metro PCS store in Maine. Police responded to the silent alarm and attempted to find the culprits. About five minutes after the robbery, police found two black men wearing pea coats walking away from the scene. On their way, they saw no one else matching the suspects' description.

Trying to get access to motions and court orders in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial for allegedly committing the Boston Marathon bombing is not easy because most of the documents are sealed. But, there are a few documents that the public has access to.

After reviewing these court papers and related news accounts, our first reaction is this: you just can't make this stuff up. The flurry of motions must be keeping Judge O'Toole busy, and the trial, though not scheduled to start until November, already has the makings of a television drama.

Robert George was a criminal lawyer turned criminal lawyer. At a Dunkin' Donuts one day (this was Boston, after all), he happened to run into an ex-felon whom he once represented, Ronald Dardinski. Dardinski had gone to prison after pleading guilty in a scam in which he "sold" repossessed cars that weren't his, then kept $750,000 from unwitting victims.

George had initially represented Dardinski, but Dardinski found a different lawyer. George casually asked what happened with the money. Dardinski replied that he had "a bunch of it hidden." Then George -- a lawyer, mind you -- offered to launder the money for him. Dardinski agreed, and then contacted a DEA agent for whom he had been an informant in the past. George started laundering the money, Dardinski recorded all their conversations, yadda yadda yadda, and now George is in federal prison for money laundering and conspiracy.

George appealed his conviction to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed his conviction in a very entertaining opinion.

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The trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, better known as one of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends, began earlier this month, and a mere two weeks later, the jury has deliberated and found him guilty.

Let's take a closer look at the details surround the criminal trial.

Rolando Rojas was convicted of distributing cocaine, in violation of federal law, to undercover agent Wing Chau, on three different occasions from January 2011 to March 2011. During the course of the investigation, some of the phone calls were recorded, and meetings were video/audio recorded.

Though the prosecution seemed to have enough evidence for a conviction, it made two errors during closing arguments that could affect the outcome of the trial. Did the First Circuit think so? Let's see.