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Ohio Man Convicted of Possessing Ricin, Lying to FBI

An Ohio man was convicted of possessing weaponized ricin with intent to use it as a weapon in a rather dramatic suicide plot -- a conviction upheld by the Sixth Circuit yesterday.

Readers will recall that ricin was the favorite murder toxin of choice by the now loved and infamous Walter White of Breaking Bad fame. The amount that Levenderis had refined was enough to kill 250 Tucos or Gus Frings.

Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit convicted of fraud and racketeering, is taking his case to the Supremes. Not Motown hero Diana Ross, but the Supreme Court. Kilpatrick is currently asking the High Court to hear his case after the Sixth Circuit upheld his conviction in August and rejected his petition for en banc review.

Kilpatrick's tenure as mayor was long plagued by scandal, including accusations that he held wild parties in the major's mansion and even covered up the murder of an exotic dancer. It was much more quotidian corruption that landed him with a 28 year jail sentence, however, after the government accused him of extorting money from government contractors.

6th Cir. Creates Split in Private Searches on Computers

What are the limits of the "private search doctrine" when it comes to a computer? The Sixth Circuit answered that question last week in a case that is sure to make it to the Supreme Court.

Aaron Lichtenberger was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. His girlfriend, wondering why she was never allowed to use his computer, hacked into it and found images of child pornography. She notified the authorities, police obtained a warrant to search the computer, which led to more pornography. The Sixth Circuit, however, suppressed all this evidence as the product of an unconstitutional search.

Prosecutors impermissibly withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in their prosecution of an Ohio police lieutenant for the death of his wife. Thomas Barton was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly hired a man to "scare" his wife by staging a robbery, only for the plan to go wrong and Barton's wife to end up dead.

Barton appealed, arguing that the prosecution had withheld exculpatory evidence -- mainly that the sole witness against Barton may not have had the "burglar for hire" history that the state claimed. The Second Circuit agreed, finding that the evidence could have helped Barton's defense.

After Leslie Ashmore, a convicted felon, was found in possession of firearms, he was tried for violating federal law and sentenced to 20 years in prison. On appeal however, he earned a new trial, since the court had improperly introduced evidence that was obtained through the use of a two step Miranda technique meant to undermine the effectiveness of Ashmore's Miranda rights.

One October night, police found Ashmore passed out in his vehicle, alongside drug paraphernalia. A search of the car revealed two firearms, safely tucked away in a lock box for which Ashmore had the key. Two weeks later, a team of 10 to 20 officers, including the city's SWAT time, was deployed to arrest Ashmore. Special Agent Jamie Jenkins questioned Ashmore as to whether there were any guns in the car he was arrested in -- before he received his Miranda warnings.

Michael Patterson ran a small psychiatric practice in Memphis, Tennessee, with a fairly large side business in selling prescriptions for Percocet, Vicodin, and Adderall , among other drugs. The law eventually caught up to Patterson and he was charged with 38 counts of improperly distributing controlled substances and pleaded guilty to three of those.

Patterson contested his sentence on appeal, arguing that the district court had improperly assumed that his prescriptions weren't medically justified and unjustly categorized him as an organizer or leader of the drug dealing scheme. In a reminder of the deference afforded to finders of fact, the Sixth Circuit quickly and without much difficultly rejected each of Patterson's claims.

6th Cir. Upholds Former Sheriff's Witness Tampering Conviction

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.

Court Strikes Parts of Mich. Sex Offender Law for Vagueness

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.

6th Cir. Upholds $13M Award for Wrongfully Convicted Man

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.