6th Circuit Criminal Law News - U.S. Sixth Circuit
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Witness tampering? That's old and busted, run-of-the-mill, hardly worthy of news. How about when the person doing the tampering is a police officer? Yeah, suddenly you're interested.

Christopher Eaton, the (former, at this point) sheriff of Barren County, Kentucky, was convicted of witness tampering for ordering officers under his command to make false statements in an FBI investigation into excessive use of force on a suspect named Billy Stinnett.

Courts are continuing the trend toward striking down Draconian laws targeting sex offenders. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal disapproved of California's requirement that sex offenders hand over all their Internet usernames to the state attorney general. Last month, the California Supreme Court overturned a state law categorically banning sex offenders from living in certain areas.

At the end of March, a federal district judge in Michigan similarly struck parts of that state's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA).

A man stopped for speeding and arrested for possessing a kilo of heroin did not have his Fourth Amendment rights violated when police detained him so that a dog could sniff his car, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Tuesday. Sniffing out a car isn't a search under the Fourth, the court held, and does not implicate a citizen's reasonable expectation of privacy.

The case, United States v. Winters, challenged the further detention of Patrick Winters after he was pulled over and issued a speeding ticket and the use of the dog to sniff his car without a warrant.

In 2000, David Ayers was convicted of the murder of Dorothy Brown, a 76-year-old woman living in Cleveland. There's just one problem: Ayers didn't do it. In 2011, he was freed after the Sixth Circuit said that his case was marred by defects of a constitutional character.

In 2012, Ayers filed suit against the detectives who investigated his case, as well as the City of Cleveland. In an opinion issued last week, the Sixth Circuit upheld an award of $13 million in damages to Ayers.

Oral Args. in Telecommuting, Self-Representation En Banc Cases

Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments in two en banc cases that we've been covering: the "irritable bowel" telecommuting case and a habeas case where a man claims that he was denied his right to self-representation.

The former case asks whether summary judgment in favor of Ford Motor Co. was proper when an employee requested to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation of her disability -- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The latter case, Hill v. Curtin, is about a man who asked to represent himself on the first day of trial, before a jury was empaneled. His request was denied as untimely by the trial court and by the state appellate courts, but the district court granted habeas relief.

6th Cir. to Hear Kwame Kilpatrick's Request for a New Trial

He's behind bars, but Kwame Kilpatrick is not done. Not by a long shot, even if his case is exactly that.

The disgraced former Mayor of Detroit, convicted of a bevvy of corruption charges related to extortion, racketeering, bribery, and tax evasion, is serving a 28-year sentence. He may get a second shot at defending himself, however, if the Sixth Circuit agrees that the trial judge made significant mistakes in handling Kilpatrick's trial. Oral arguments are set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

What's the issue? A conflict of interest with his defense counsel, plus your standard assortment of claims of inappropriate testimony.

In 2009, Tynisa Williams was arrested, strip-searched, and deloused (allegedly in front of two other inmates) before being put into jail in Cleveland and released later that day. Her crime? Driving with a suspended license. There was no individualized suspicion that she was carrying anything dangerous, nor that she had lice.

"Doesn't this all sound familiar?" you're saying, scratching your chin. Yes, in fact: The Supreme Court dealt with a similar situation in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington. In that case, Burlington County had a policy of strip-searching every person processed into county jail, regardless of the severity of their crime. The Supreme Court upheld this practice. So why did the Sixth Circuit allow Tynisa Williams' complaint to proceed?

The facts of State v. Hoffman are pretty simple: Brandon Hoffman was identified by neighbors as the last person who'd interacted with Scott Holzhauer, who was found dead in his home. Hoffman had three active misdemeanor arrest warrants, so police executed the warrants. Arriving at Hoffman's house, they found a gun and two cell phones (one of which belonged to Holzhauer). They then got a search warrant, then arrested Hoffman.

The kicker here is that the three misdemeanor arrest warrants probably shouldn't have been issued in the first place. A deputy clerk admitted that there was no probable cause determination made; the warrants merely recited the statutory language, with no facts supporting the probable cause admission.

Ponzi Schemer Gets Credit for Refunds Despite Ignoble Intentions

Is a good deed any less good if it was done with less-than-noble intentions?

Maybe so. But the Ponzi scheme guidelines don't care about motive -- they care about money. And Jason Snelling, in the end, only stole $5.3 million, returning the other $3.6 million to his investors in order to lure them into "investing" more money into his Ponzi scheme.

The district court declined to credit Snelling for the returned funds, but the Sixth Circuit reversed the sentence as procedurally unreasonable.

The Armed Career Criminal Act provides sentence enhancements for convicted felons who commit firearms crimes. Commit two or more violent crimes or drug trafficking crimes and your third gets you 15 years, minimum.

Edward Young was helping his neighbor sell her late husband's possessions when he found seven shotgun shells in a box. He put them in a drawer for safekeeping. Unbeknownst to him, he wasn't allowed to possess ammunition because he had been convicted of burglary-type crimes 20 years earlier.

Police came calling to investigate burglaries at an auto repair shop nearby. Young consented to a search, and of course they found the shotgun shells. For that, he received 15 years in prison.