Criminal Law News - U.S. Tenth Circuit
U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Criminal Law Category

The Rocky Mountain High was popularized long before Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. After all, what is the Centennial State if not the perfect place for stoners, snowboarders, and fast food chains?

But Colorado's pot-friendly status doesn't justify pulling over out-of-state drivers with Colorado plates, the Tenth Circuit ruled recently, throwing out two Kansas Highway Patrol officers' claims of qualified immunity after they cited Colorado plates as a reason for stopping drivers.

Gov't Asking About Past Sex Crimes Is Unconstitutional, 10th Cir. Rules

A stunning case was recently decided by the Tenth Circuit in which the federal court ruled that a convicted sex offender facing an 'authentic danger of self-incrimination' cannot be forced by the government to answer questions regarding past sexual crimes. It's a clear line drawn in the sand.

In our view, the decision by the circuit court was the correct one and that the circuit correctly reversed the lower court's ludicrous finding that the subject's answers would not present a "real and appreciable risk of incrimination."

Hearsay Exceptions Apply to Contested Evidence, 10th Circuit Rules

This Tenth Circuit bank fraud ruling in US v. Marvin Iverson helps clarify the general trend in the circuit to treat banking documents and FDIC certificates as exemptable hearsay. In this case, the court found that a number of the hearsay exceptions allowed a key piece of evidence into the body of evidence.

Atkins Diet Doctor Going to Prison for Tax Evasion: 10th Cir.

Remember the Atkins diet? One of the low carb diet's most outspoken and enterprising exponents was Dr. Mary C. Vernon of Kansas -- and now she's headed to prison. The Tenth Circuit just upheld her criminal conviction for tax evasion and greenlit the penalty of $311,000.

Now Vernon is headed to prison for three years and five months. It's a fate worse than carbs.

Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown, along with the shared husband Kody, were just simple people going about their own business (and starring in the reality show 'Sister Wives') when they came under investigation for polygamy. The Browns weren't charged with a crime, but they challenged Utah's longstanding polygamy ban nonetheless -- and they won.

Now, the Sister Wives are taking their pro-polygamy campaign to the Tenth Circuit, which heard oral arguments over the ban today.

Former Oklahoma Senate Leader Must Be Resentenced, 10th Circuit Orders

Michael Morgan, an Oklahoma attorney and former leader of the Oklahoma Senate was sentenced in 2012 to probation arising out of a charge bribery. Since the Tenth Circuit found that the punishment was "grossly at odds" with sentencing guidelines, he will now be resentenced. Basically, the Tenth Circuit determined that the lower court gave the defendant an easy pass.

When Michael Morgan was convicted for bribery, the jury acquitted him of about 60 other criminal counts. Morgan asked for a new trial alleging that the prosecution failed to disclose "tacit agreements" with a witness, insufficiency of evidence and failure to properly instruct the jury. Unfortunately for him, the 3 judge-panel disagreed and found that the jury's conviction of Morgan was based on sufficient factual evidence and further described the trial court's order of Morgan's probation as "little more than a slap on the wrist."

Convicted for child pornography charges, Timothy Vanderwerff wanted to make a plea agreement. The prosecution was on board with the deal. Everything was fine until the trial court decided to use this case to make a point about the evils of plea bargains. And so the court flat-out denied the agreement, emphasizing its distaste for plea bargains in general.

Why did the district court hate plea bargains so much? It offered a few reasons. For example, the court noted that unfortunate circumstance of too many guilty pleas and not enough trials. Also, it cited the Supreme Court case in Lafler v. Cooper, which "suggested that a sentencing court should be a participant in the plea-bargaining process."

10th Cir. Upholds Bank Robbery Conviction

People still rob banks? You bet they do -- and they get caught. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma were confronted with a spate of bank robberies they linked to the Hoover Crips, a franchise of the Crips street gang. They also had reason to believe the appellant in this case, Dejuan Hill, was involved.

A federal grand jury indicted Dejuan on 10 counts, including robbery and conspiracy, for a series of bank robberies that occurred between 2009 and 2011.

10th Cir. Upholds 100-Year Conviction for Child Pornography

Richard Franklin was convicted on federal child pornography charges, including advertisement or notice of child pornography. Franklin was a member of a file-sharing website called GigaTribe, which allowed him to approve other users as "friends," letting them into his "tribe."

Of course, his fellow tribe members wanted child pornography, which he supplied, leading to his conviction. On appeal, he contended that the evidence didn't support a conviction for "advertisement or notice" of pornography. He also claimed that his total sentence -- five consecutive sentences, totaling 100 years -- was unreasonable.

10th Cir. Tosses Drug Conviction Due to Insufficient Evidence

Anthony Washington and Maurice Edwards were both convicted on federal drug possession charges with intent to sell after police found the drugs in the trunk of a rental car Edwards borrowed from his mother.

Trouble is, while it was easy for the jury to tie Edwards to the fourteen bricks of marijuana inside a black duffel bag, Washington's connection wasn't so clear. For that reason, the Tenth Circuit last week reversed Washington's conviction, finding insufficient evidence to tie him to the drugs.