Criminal Law News - U.S. Tenth Circuit
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When a Wells Fargo branch was robbed in Aurora, Colorado, police took it seriously, stopping every car at a nearby intersection and holding them at gunpoint while they attempted to locate the pilfered cash. The mass detention of 29 people lasted over two hours and led to two lawsuits; one by fourteen people who were detained and another by the bank robber, who was caught in the stop.

If that's not bizarre enough, consider how the robbery itself. Recently fired violinist and music teacher Christian Paetsch road to the bank on a stolen bicycle, donned a beekeeper's hat and held up the bank while blasting an air horn. When he left, he took $26,000 in cash and a hidden tracking beacon.

He'd returned to his car by the time police placed the street on lockdown. In an appeal from his conviction, he argued that the mass detention was an unreasonable search and seizure.

James White pleaded guilty to violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) after he failed to update his sex offender registration when he moved from Oklahoma to Texas. (He actually moved to Texas, then "drove back to Oklahoma every ninety days to maintain the illusion that he continued to reside there.")

On appeal, he claimed SORNA violated the Commerce Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the Ex Post Facto Clause. He also brought two sentencing issues. So, is SORNA grossly unconstitutional?

With police use of excessive force all over the news these days, we turn now to police involvement with a nine-year-old boy. One judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has had enough.

In this unpublished case from the Tenth Circuit, via Utah, a nine-year-old was put in a "control hold" after he stole an iPad. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that using the control hold was not excessive force.

And then Judge Carlos Lucero had something to say.

A Colorado state trooper stopped Melissa Sotelo for driving too slowly in the left-hand lane. Sotelo was driving a car rented from Hertz by Patrick Schooler, but there were no other authorized drivers listed. The car wasn't stolen, and Schooler was a friend of the passenger, Janelle Mireles. Hertz asked the police to impound the car.

Before they did, they conducted an inventory search and found three gift-wrapped boxes in the back seat. The driver and passenger said the boxes contained baby clothes, a karaoke machine, and a baby stroller -- birthday gifts for Sotelo's daughter. Suspicious, the trooper obtained a search warrant, then opened the boxes. Happy birthday! Marijuana.

Lesson From U.S. v. Henderson: Don't Give Up, Poll the Jury

The Tenth Circuit issued an opinion today in United States v. Henderson that demonstrates the importance of polling the jury when you get a verdict against you.

In 2011, former Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer Jeff Henderson was convicted of several counts during a corruption trial and was sentenced to 42 months in prison, Tulsa's KOTV reports. The most interesting issue on appeal was this: Was Henderson denied his constitutional right to a unanimous jury, given that one juror was instructed by the foreman that she was not permitted to change her guilty vote?

The court decided no. Henderson attached an affidavit from the juror, but the court did not consider it, citing Rule 606(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which provides:

Salt Lake's 'Borg' Courthouse Debuts with a Shooting

The "Borg Cube," as the locals like to call it, opened one week ago. Today was the first trial in the new courthouse. Lets hope the rest of the trials go more smoothly than this one.

During the last of a series of trials for alleged Tongan Crips members, defendant Siale Angilau, 25, allegedly grabbed a pen or pencil and tried to charge the stand. A U.S. Marshall shot him multiple times in the chest. He was removed from the building on a stretcher, in critical condition, while the brand new courthouse is expected to be locked down until Monday afternoon, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

Usually one of the quieter circuits, the Tenth Circuit is now giving legal professionals something to talk about.

With cases percolating, and being argued before the Tenth Circuit (with almost-certain cert petitions following soon), three big issues have come to the forefront in the circuit home to states across the ideological board -- Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Here's what you need to know about the big three issues to watch in the Tenth Circuit.

Getting a divorce was not enough for Gwen Bergman. She not only wanted her husband out of her life, but out of this realm. Ms. Bergman dipped into her mother's retirement account to the tune of $30,000 to hire a hit man to murder her husband. The problem? The man she hired was an undercover cop. Ooops.

But that was just the beginning of Ms. Bergman's lack of good judgment. She was duped yet again by her so-called attorney, if you could call him that. You see, he wasn't an attorney, but a con man who had been making a nice living duping many other clients (and courts).

Double oops.

I will be the first to admit that procedure is just not my thing. I like studying issues pertaining to Constitutional law and civil rights. Procedure? Meh. For example, when learning about res judicata in law school, I had to invoke "The Lion King" and sang res judicata to the tune of "Hakuna Matata" just to keep myself from falling asleep.

So, if at any point while reading this you feel the same urge, please feel free to join me in singing (or humming).

So why this case? Because it has the best opening line ever: "The trouble began when Javier and Jesus Carranza approached a dancer at a strip club and offered to pay her for sex." (Oh, and when your editor assigns you a post, you do it).

Oh, the good ol' Tenth Circuit. For a circuit that covers a geographically large portion of the United States, the case law coming out of there can sometimes not be as compelling as circuits with cities like New York or San Francisco. But, that doesn't mean all Tenth Circuit cases are folly. In fact, when they mean business, they get the whole country's attention.

Tenth Circuit in the News

With Utah's large Mormon population, we suppose it was just a matter of time before a polygamy case was heard. And just in time for the end of 2013, Judge Waddoups of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah struck down Utah's bigamy statutes' cohabitation provision as unconstitutional.