9th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Ninth Circuit
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The only thing I know about NCIS is that my mom loves it (the TV show, that is). And I love to see Mark Harmon working a steady job.

But today, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the real-life NCIS exceeded the scope of its authority by investigating civilian child pornography. Cue David Caruso. Oops, wrong show.

Sheriff's deputies at the Long Beach jailhouse understandably don't want drugs circulating around the facility. So when Mark Fowlkes was brought in on drug and weapons charges, and officers allegedly peeped a portion of a plastic baggie poking out of his rectum, they were understandably concerned.

Their response, however, crossed the line into a Fourth Amendment violation when they Tased him, five officers held him down, and Sgt. Michael Gibbs, with gloved hands, used his thumb and forefinger to remove a bloody, golf ball-sized bag from Fowlkes' rectum.

The Ninth Circuit, holding that the evidence should be suppressed, called the search "brutal and physically invasive," as well as "degrading and dangerous."

Who could've predicted this? Perhaps anyone who has been watching the string of executions that have been carried out over the past few months -- a series of cruel and unusual science experiments using novel combinations of drugs often sourced from unregulated compounding pharmacies. Isn't this exactly why death row inmates are fighting for access to information on drugs and the execution team?

And so it goes again: witnesses say that the inmate spent the next two hours gasping for air before finally succumbing to the drugs. Meanwhile, his lawyers raced to the courthouse to file a mid-execution stay, hoping to end the unusual, and possibly cruel, punishment being doled out to Joseph Rudolph Wood.

Here's another interesting death penalty ruling out of the West Coast.

The Ninth Circuit just did what a number of other courts have refused to do: forced a state to turn over information on the source of execution drugs and the credentials of the executioners, while granting a stay of execution in the interim.

In dissent, Judge Jay Bybee calls the inmate's First Amendment right of access claim "novel" and argues that the right of access dispute, which would apply to all citizens and not just to the inmate, does not justify delaying an execution more than two decades in the making.

In 2010, Los Angeles officials gathered for a "Town Hall on Homelessness," a forum where Venice residents complained about the prevalence of homeless individuals sleeping in their cars. City officials and high-ranking LAPD officers attended, assured residents that they would reemphasize enforcement of an existing ordinance prohibiting living in one's car.

How? They formed a task force of twenty-one officers that were to use Section 85.02 to cite and arrest homeless people who were in violation of the statute. As part of this enforcement, officers ticketed or arrested a man waiting to volunteer at his church, a woman driving her RV through Venice, and a guy waiting out a rainstorm in his car, amongst others. None were caught sleeping in their vehicles, and some of them even had proof that they slept elsewhere, such as a local shelter.

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Arizona: the proving ground for state immigration and abortion laws.

We've seen a lot of movement on Arizona abortion cases lately, and on Monday, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in an ongoing challenge to the state's illegal immigrant harboring statute, which means the injunction, which currently blocks enforcement of the state law, will remain in place during the litigation.

An en banc challenge to a related law, which prohibits bail for illegal immigrants, was recently argued before the court and is awaiting a decision.

This is a disappointing, yet utterly unsurprising result, after a years-long appeals process that was put on hold pending last year's equally unfortunate Maryland v. King decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Last year, the High Court held that Maryland's practice of collecting DNA from felons was pretty much no big deal, akin to fingerprinting as a means of identification. Haskell v. Harris is a similar case, challenging a somewhat similar law in California.

So yes, after a pro-California ruling by a panel, some indication that the en banc court was leaning the other way, and the Supreme Court bombshell, California's law stands, and the injunction that would've stopped all DNA collection has been denied.

Over the past few years, the nation has watched, with little amusement, while a circus of immigration reform efforts have played out in Arizona. Frustrated by what they call the federal government's failings in curbing illegal immigration, the state passed its own set of laws, in the legislature and via referendum, most of which have since met their demise in the courts.

Arizona's laws have been criticized as improperly motivated, and preempted by federal law, but last June, a divided panel upheld Proposition 100, which denies bond to illegal immigrants accused of serious crimes, as a proper means of ensuring that the state can enforce its laws against those prone to flee.

On Thursday, however, the court announced that the case will head back to the court for the full en banc treatment.

She spent more than two decades on death row before the Ninth Circuit set her free because of questions about the investigating detective's credibility. Now, thanks to those questions, the case against her is unraveling.

Deborah Milke was convicted in 1991 of having her 4-year-old son murdered. But decades later, Milke was set free after the Ninth Circuit granted habeas, citing multiple findings by lower courts of Detective Hector Saldate's misconduct in other cases.

Now, after the trial court today allowed Saldate to invoke his right against self-incrimination, the prosecution is scrambling to gather enough evidence to retry the case, 20 years later.

Dissents are worthless, right? After all, they're not controlling, especially dissents from orders.

This dissent from an en banc rehearing denial, by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, arguing that the frequency of Brady disclosure violations has reached epidemic proportions, is one more reason why Judge Kozinski is quickly becoming a personal favorite. It's snarky, well-written, and makes you wonder how in the heck the original panel (and the en banc deniers) got the case so wrong.

Unfortunately, it's legal effect is nill, which means the defendant, Kenneth Olsen, who was convicted of knowingly developing a biological agent (ricin) for use as a weapon (allegedly laced allergy pills), will not receive relief, absent Supreme Court intervention.