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

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What Happens If a Juror Says 'Guilty' in a Crowded Elevator?

So many things seem to go wrong for criminal defendants on trial, especially when they point out the errors on appeal.

Sandra Bart made her case to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals after her conviction in United States of America v. Bart. Along with her claims of insufficient evidence, abuse of discretion and denial of motions, she complained of juror misconduct.

And why not blame the jury? One of the jurors apparently told others in the courthouse elevator that Bart was guilty.

Murder Charge Against Canadian Upheld in South Dakota

John Graham shot Anna Mae Aquash in the back of the head, execution-style in the Badlands of South Dakota.

She died that day in December 1975, but it took authorities 35 years to get Graham to trial because he had fled to Canada. In 2010, he was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In Graham v. Young, the convicted murderer claimed he was wrongly extradited. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said he was wrong.

A Kansas City man who was sentenced to three years in jail for pointing a laser pointer at a police helicopter challenged the application of a sentencing enhancement. Interestingly, while the guidelines on his conviction, with the enhancement, recommended 41 to 51 months, the judge only imposed a 36 month sentence.

Nevertheless, the laser-happy defendant claimed that the sentencing enhancement for reckless conduct shouldn't apply -- despite intentionally shining the laser at the helicopter while being fully aware of the risk of harming the pilot and endangering the lives of those onboard the helicopter. The Eighth Circuit didn't agree, and didn't spend too much time explaining why.

Headlines from the beginning of the year detailed the unsealed federal domestic terrorism charges against Taylor Michael Wilson, and recently, additional federal gun charges have been heaped upon the defendant.

In October 2017, Wilson boarded an Amtrak train in California, headed home to Missouri. However, while the train was in Nebraska, train authorities discovered Wilson in one of the engine cars of the train playing with the controls after applying the emergency break. Wilson was armed, but Amtrak staff were able to restrain him until law enforcement arrived.

Gil Lundstrom, the CEO of the now defunct TierOne bank, couldn't convince the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to do anything with his conviction, despite seemingly making any and every conceivable argument.

And while it's not uncommon for convicted bigwigs to pull out all the stops in arguing their appeals, Lundstrom's appeal just seemed doomed from the get-go, given that former insiders turned on him. In addition to appealing the denial of his motion for a judgment of acquittal, he challenged the jury instructions, a few pieces of evidence, some other procedural nonsense, as well as the prison term he was ultimately awarded, and the restitution he was ordered to pay.

Photo ID Was Fair, Not Impermissibly Suggestive

Anthony Whitewater turned a bad day into 240 worse months.

He got into a fight at a party, got into a van and shot at people who were leaving the party. He was convicted of various crimes, including being a felon in possession of a firearm.

After sentencing, he appealed on the grounds that the photo line-up used to identify him was not fair. The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was fair enough.

Tip Was Enough Reasonable Suspicion After a Bank Robbery

The bad guys almost got away by using the old "hide-the-loot-and-the-robbers-in-the-trunk" trick.

Katherine Phil was driving a gray Ford Taurus near the vicinity of a bank robbery in Iowa when a police officer pulled her over. The deputy had heard a radio report about two men who may have fled in a gray Ford Taurus.

Phil was alone, however, and the deputy was about to let her go -- then decided to check the trunk. You guessed it, as Maxwell Smart would say, the robbers missed it by that much.

Mandatory Deportation Warning Isn't Retroactive

Maybe it's time that you criminal defense attorneys -- particularly when representing immigrants -- wear badges that say: "You may be deported if you are convicted."

That's because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that criminal defense attorneys have a duty to inform clients about possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty. It's required to provide effective counsel under the Sixth Amendment, the High Court said seven years ago in Padilla v. Kentucky.

But what if you messed up eight years ago? Well lucky for you, that's another case -- Barajas v. United States of America.

Identify Theft Caught on Tape

Where to begin the criminal story of Candice A. Davis...

She said it should have begun in 2015, when an investigator first testified about working on her case. The prosecutor, however, said the investigator had evidence against Davis from earlier reports.

In United States of America v. Davis, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the investigator's testimony was enough to start the record in 2013. That's when the video started recording.

Fitness Exec Pleads Guilty to Drug Dealing, Kidnapping

One of the problems with being a criminal is you can't call the cops for help.

Maybe that's what led Todd Beckman down the dark road that ends with 20 years in prison. Beckman used to be a successful businessman, but he turned his skills to smuggling marijuana.

Then he made a wrong-way decision with a one-way consequence: he kidnapped and threatened to kill someone who stole his drugs.