U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

In the early 90s, Charles Rhines brutally murdered a donut shop employee while committing a robbery. There's no dispute about that, at least not anymore. Rhines confessed and got sentenced to the death penalty, and has been on death row ever since, despite his numerous unsuccessful appeals and efforts to seek habeas relief.

Recently, it is being reported that Rhines's death sentence is related to the fact that he is a gay man. Apparently, the jurors sent a list of questions to the judge while deliberating during the penalty phase, and those questions seem to imply that the jurors were concerned Rhines would be in a gay paradise in prison for the rest of his life. Despite how offensive such a notion seems today, in the early 90s, women and the disabled had barely just received federal civil rights protections (we're not making excuses over here, just providing context).

Court Approves Remington Trigger Settlement -- Finally

The Remington class-action settlement over defective rifle triggers probably took longer to hammer out than it took to make the rifles.

Four years after the original settlement, a federal appeals court finally approved a fourth version of the agreement in Pollard v. Remington Arms Company. The U.S. Eighth Circuit affirmed the deal making some gun owners eligible for trigger replacements and others for a $12 voucher.

The main settlement terms were not the problem; it was the notice to about 7.5 million gun owners. Their response was well short of the mark.

Kindergarten Shoot-Up Joker Wins Appeal

It wasn't funny when James Ross made a satirical Facebook post about shooting kindergarten students.

It also wasn't funny when Jackson police officers arrested him. He sued, and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said he has a case.

In Ross v. City of Jackson, the appeals court said the police should have known it was just a bad joke.

When doctors and other professionals conspire, the law can be rather unforgiving. Just ask the Minnesota doctor who just lost her appeal of the $400K+ restitution order stemming from an illegal kickback scheme with a pharmacy.

Though the doc was getting less than $1K per referral, and was only convicted of making 20 or so referrals, after entering her plea, she was ordered to pay restitution for the entire sum the pharmacy defrauded from the U.S. government. Given the massive (20X) difference between the restitution order and her supposed illicit gains, an appeal followed.

Leaving only one last avenue for recourse to Gage County, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an en banc rehearing on the county's failed appeal of the $28 million judgment in the Beatrice Six civil case.

The Beatrice Six case is one of the biggest DNA, wrongful conviction exonerations in history. That's because the DNA evidence of a murder that took place decades ago was used to free six individuals that were wrongfully convicted. The story of their conviction and their exoneration is absolutely the stuff of TV drama, and sadly for the all the victims, a hot topic among the locals in Nebraska.

The civil rights case of Arkansas judge Wendell Griffen against the Arkansas Supreme Court, and each of its members, was just dismissed by a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Griffen's case is a fascinating one, as he is an outspoken advocate against the death penalty and the state's high court barred him from hearing death penalty cases due to his alleged bias, and in accordance with the state's judicial ethics. And while that may seem extreme, not only has Judge Griffen blogged about his views against the death penalty, he participated in a protest where he laid down on a gurney in front of the governor's mansion while wearing an anti-death penalty button.

Attorneys General Urge Circuit Court Not to Expand Title VII

The states have aligned in the battle over LGBT employment rights in the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys general from Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, and South Dakota have cast their opinions against a man who claims he lost a job because he is gay. Half of those states are in the Eighth Circuit's boundaries.

Meanwhile, eighteen other states have filed on behalf of the plaintiff in Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management, LLC. The appeals court will decide his fate, but will also push the pendulum forward or backward for LGBT rights in America.

Judge Strikes Campaign-Finance Enforcement Law

Enforcement provisions of Colorado's campaign finance law are unconstitutional, a federal judge said.

Judge Raymond Moore said the enforcement provisions, which empower private citizens to file complaints over campaign finance issues, violate protections for political speech. With that decision in Holland v. Williams, the judge will likely issue a permanent injunction against the state.

According to reports, the ruling has major implications for state politics. It may not matter beyond Colorado, however, because it is the only state in the nation with such private-enforcement laws.

Court Upholds $28 Million Award for 'Beatrice Six'

DNA evidence can cut both ways -- for conviction or exoneration.

In one Nebraska case, it cut deep for exoneration. Six defendants were wrongfully imprisoned for another man's crime before DNA evidence freed them.

But the "Beatrice Six" got their payback when a trial court handed them a $28 million judgment against a small Nebraska County. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was an "obvious case" and affirmed in Dean v. Searcey.

For one criminal defendant, the reaction of a drug dog was the tipping point that gave law enforcement probable cause for the dog's sniff search, at least according to the Eighth Circuit.

That sniff search was successful in locating a few kilograms of cocaine, which resulted in the defendant taking a conditional plea of guilt to a drug trafficking charge, pending resolution of an appeal of his motion to suppress. And in the United States v. Javier Pulido-Ayala, the Eighth Circuit rejected that defendant's appeal on his Fourth Amendment challenge to the drug dog's sniff search.