U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

November 2013 Archives

Contributory Negligence Doesn't Apply to Taser Death

Note to self: applying electric current to one's heart via a Taser can disrupt the heart's normal operation.

Such a notion makes sense -- after all, when a person's heart stops, the remedy is often to use a defibrillator to shoot bursts of electricity into the patient's heart to "jump start" it. However, for a time, it was thought that the X26 Taser was incapable of disturbing a person's heart rhythm. In fact, the manufacturer's training materials explicitly noted that it was impossible to interfere with the heart's rhythm by applying the Taser, and that police officers should aim for the center of the chest, near the heart.

En Banc Denied in Family Dollar; SCOTUS-Ignoring Opinion Stands

This case is now doubly-interesting, and a possible candidate for Supreme Court review.

Way back in 2008, a putative class of female store managers sued Family Dollar Stores, Inc., a chain of discount retail stores, alleging that they were paid less than their male counterparts, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and Section 216(b) of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d).

Last week, the Fourth Circuit denied a request for en banc rehearing of the case, leaving an opinion in place that many are arguing goes against controlling Supreme Court precedent. Judge Wilkinson, who wrote a 40-page dissent to the panel's opinion, dissented from the denial as well, calling the panel's decision, "so contrary to the [Supreme] Court's Wal-Mart decision as to whittle it down to near meaninglessness."

Telephone Game: Multiple Hearsay Is Good Enough for Sentencing

Ever play the telephone game? You say something to one person, she repeats it to the next person, who repeats it to the next person ... ad nauseum. By the time the message reaches the end of the chain, a statement such as, "Man, I could really use some Chipotle right now, but I'm blogging instead," becomes, "I've got a chicken in my head."

Reliability. It's one of the reasons why hearsay is naughty -- except, apparently, when crackheads phone in their testimony to a third party who then prepares a sentencing report.

This Prisoner Made Supreme Court History and All He Got Was $2.40

Jamey Wilkins is a long-term guest of the State of North Carolina. Back in 2007, he got into an argument with a guard, who allegedly went into his cell, and proceeded to end the argument -- with his fists, feet, and knees. Wilkins's dramatic injuries included a bruised heel, back and neck pain, headaches, and of course, "other health complications."

If you're thinking that he's full of crap, well, you aren't alone. His case was originally dismissed because of the de minimis injuries. After the Fourth Circuit affirmed, the Supreme Court stepped in and reversed, holding that unreasonable or excessive force rather than the injury was what mattered. On remand, and after a jury trial, Wilkins won: $0.99.

Even with the court's gracious rounding to $1.00, and with a fee shifting provision that upped the total to $2.40, it wasn't even enough to the extensive legal tab: $92,306.25.

Catfishing Teen's Child Porn Conviction Reversed

Faisal Hashime just caught a break. After being sentenced to fifteen years in prison for "manufacturing" child pornography, he'll, at minimum, get a new trial, with the words of the Forth Circuit guiding future proceedings:

"[T]his was a case in which both police and prosecution applied a heavy foot to the accelerator. We do not doubt for an instant that the defendant's conduct here was reprehensible and worthy of both investigation and punishment, as the guilty plea attests. But attention to balance and degree often distinguishes the wise exercise of prosecutorial discretion from its opposite. For now we leave to the reflection of the appropriate authorities whether it was necessary to throw the full force of the law against this 19-year-old in a manner that would very likely render his life beyond repair."

Why was the court so apparently disturbed by the lengthy sentence? And why was his conviction reversed?