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Decisions In Criminal Cases Upheld, Including Murder-for-Hire Conviction

By FindLaw Staff on June 04, 2010 4:52 PM

In US v. Knight, No. 09-4282, the Fourth Circuit faced a challenge to the district court's imposition of a 60 month sentence upon a defendant for a felonious possession conviction.  In affirming the sentence, the court held that the district court did not err in relying on defendant's arson conviction to increase her base offense level to 20.  The court also held that the district court did not err in concluding that, in light of the obstruction-of-justice enhancement she received for absconding, defendant was not entitled to an acceptance of responsibility reduction.  Lastly, the court held that although the district court erred by applying the four-level enhancement for obliterated serial numbers found in the 2007 Guidelines manual, rather than the two-level enhancement contained in the 2005 manual, defendant has not shown that she was prejudiced by that error. 

Lewis v. Wheeler, No. 09-4, concerned a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's petition for habeas relief and an order granting a certificate of appealability in a conviction for capital murder for hire and related crimes for the murders of her husband and stepson.  In affirming the judgment, the court held that the state court's adjudication of defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims is neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of the applicable precedents.  Furthermore, the court held that defendant has failed to demonstrate that counsel's failure to preserve and advise her of a possible Apprendi/Ring challenge to the constitutionality of Va. Code Ann. section 19.2-257 rises to the level of constitutionally deficient representation and has also failed to show that she was prejudiced as a result of counsel's alleged deficiencies. 

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