U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

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If you've ever known a public defender personally, or worked the job yourself, you probably know it's a thankless, stressful job with a heavy workload. But for the two federal public defenders representing convicted murderer Dylann Roof in his Fourth Circuit Appeal, it's that last part that's really proving to be more challenging than ever anticipated.

The pair of defenders recently filed a motion requesting an extension to the briefing schedule due to the sheer volume of the record and some other, more significant issues. Given the severity of Roof's crime, his death sentence, and the bumpy ride he put the world through by making inflammatory statements throughout the entire process, all eyes are on Roof's newest set of attorneys.

Kim Dotcom, the owner of now defunct Megaupload.com, which used to be one of the biggest websites in the world, had his assets seized after the site was shut down by U.S. authorities. After an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was unsuccessful, Dotcom made a plea to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the High Court just refused to even hear the case.

Kim Dotcom was not born with that unusually modern last name, but rather changed it from Schmitz in 2005. As a teen, Dotcom was known for being a hacker and even was convicted over stolen phone calling cards. However, he founded Megaupload in 2005 and quickly became an internet success.

Dylann Roof's Racist Request for New Counsel Denied

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church, has not gotten any brighter in prison -- whiter, maybe.

In appealing his convictions, he sought to fire his court-appointed lawyers because they aren't white. But that was yesterday's news; the court denied his request 24 hours later.

"The court denies the motion for substitution of counsel on appeal," the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Rushing Cockpit Not Always a Crime of Violence

It's funny how sometimes your fate can turn on a word.

David Patrick Diaz, who madly yelled "jihad" as he rushed towards the cockpit on a commercial flight, pleaded guilty to interfering with the crew. He was ordered to pay $22,151.77 in restitution because the flight and its passengers had to return to the airport.

But the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order in United States of America v. Diaz, saying flight crew interference is not always a crime of violence. The decision, as it turned out, was based in part on the word "and."

The Fourth Circuit ruled on Monday, in an en banc decision, that police are justified in frisking individuals with concealed firearms, regardless of whether that individual could have a concealed carry permit or not. The fact that someone may have a concealed carry permit does not make it unreasonable for an officer to search them, "for the officer's protection and the safety of everyone at the scene," the Fourth ruled.

The decision, U.S. v. Robinson, is in tension with a Sixth Circuit opinion from 2015 and could result in the Supreme Court taking up this developing circuit split.

A prosecutor's reliance on 'racially coded references' during sentencing entitled a South Carolina death row inmate to a new sentencing trial, the Fourth Circuit ruled on Monday. The prosecutor's comments during sentencing, including likening the defendant to King Kong and calling him "caveman" and "beast," so imbued the proceedings with racial bias that the defendant was denied a fair proceeding, the Fourth found.

The Fourth's decision upholds a district court ruling tossing the sentencing of Johnny Bennett for murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery, highlighting the way indirect racist appeals can undermine the legal process.

Fourth Circuit Finds That Embezzlement Is Not Theft Under INA

In an analysis of moral turpitude crimes, the Fourth Circuit recently found that embezzlement is not tantamount to theft for purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In the case at bar, it involved a man who was under threat of removal from the United States for having committed an "aggravated felony."

But it also shines a light on a rather peculiar question. Just when is embezzlement theft? Is all property from fraudulently-obtained consent a form of theft?

4th Cir. Clarifies 4th Amendment Parolees' Rights

Fourth Amendment cases are always interesting in that they deal with some of the most fundamental concerns affecting state and citizen: state intervention into suspected criminal activity. And when multiple states are involved, the laws can only get more interesting.

A recent case out of the Fourth Circuit could possibly set the tone for parolees who have apparently violated the terms of their parole. In the Fourth Circuit's opinion, however, one cannot violate parole terms if they don't exist.

In late 2013, a wave of armed bank robberies occurred around Washington, D.C. In October, a bank in Rockland, Maryland, followed by one in Vienna, Virginia, was hit. The next month, a Wells Fargo in Arlington. Just a few weeks later, on New Year's Eve 2013, three men were arrested, just after they robbed another Arlington bank, caught with nearly $48,000 of cash in hand.

It's hard to beat a charge of armed robbery when you're caught literally leaving the bank. It can be even harder to win on appeal, after you've been convicted of almost every charge thrown at you. But that didn't stop two of the robbers, James Larry McNeal and Alphonso Stoddard, from appealing their convictions using some clever novel arguments: one, that the government had failed to show that their guns could shoot; two, that armed bank robbery was not a crime of violence. Somehow, those arguments failed to convince the Fourth Circuit, which upheld their convictions.

The Fourth Circuit just tossed a conviction of a man who photographed himself and a 7-year-old girl having sex, the Associated Press reported.

Now before readers take up pitch-forks and torches, it should be noted that the circuit did nothing more than review whether or not the lower court applied the law correctly.