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Articles by Chad Marks

Federal Judge Issues Order Reducing 40-Year Stacked § 924(c) Sentence Based on First Step Act Changes to Compassionate Release

On a cold February 2003 night, my life was shattered. That is when I was arrested and charged with a crack cocaine conspiracy along with two § 924(c) counts. My mandatory minimum sentence could be no lower than 40 years. And after a three-week trial, that is exactly what I was sentenced to at 24 years old.

I was sent to USP Big Sandy in Kentucky, where I immediately began going to the law library and working on my appeal. With the assistance of attorney Jillian Harrington, I was successful on my appeal in part. The case was remanded to the district court for a hearing related to ineffective assistance of counsel that occurred during the plea-bargaining stage. After the hearings, my request for relief was denied. A new appeal on that issue was also rejected. At that point, my 40-year sentence was looking like my reality for the next four decades.

This was a prospect that I could not accept. This is when my game plan changed — I decided that my days would now be spent in the law library. Researching the law became easy for me, and in time, I would read some very ...

New Orleans Sheriff’s Office Tracked Cellphones Absent Warrants

by Chad Marks

Securus Technologies, one of the leading providers of phone-messaging services for correctional facilities, reportedly captured thousands of coordinates showing cellphone locations for clients absent a warrant. Through Securus, both Jefferson and Orleans Parish sheriff’s offices were able to capture data used for criminal investigations, The Appeal reports.

Contracts showed that Securus gave its clients access to location data for cellphones that made or received calls from correctional facilities. As part of the contract, Securus also provided location data regardless of whether or not the phone connected with a call at the prisons. 

In circumventing the Fourth Amendment, all the sheriff’s office had to do was provide a technology company with the cellphone number. In return, Securus handed over the phones’ location data.

In mid-2018, Securus disabled the technology that intruded upon citizens’ cellphone data. Surprisingly, the dismantling occurred just a few short weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that historical cell-site location information is protected by the Fourth Amendment. In that case, Carpenter v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), the Court made it clear that acquisition of such data constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment and that a warrant is necessary ...

Utah District Court Finds First Step Act Gives Court Authority to Reduce Stacked 55-Year § 924(c) Sentence

by Chad Marks

Kepa Maumau was a 20 year old young man when he was arrested and charged with multiple 924(c) offenses. He was eventually sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison. That sentence was driven by the mandatory minimums required under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).

After the First Step Act became law, Maumau filed a motion for a reduction in sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582. In that motion, he argued that the Court could reduce his sentence if a finding was made that “extraordinary and compelling reasons” exist for such relief.

In considering Maumau’s petition, the Court was tasked with answering three questions: (1) does the Court have discretion to provide relief, (2) should the Court exercise that discretion to modify Maumau’s sentence, and (3) if Maumau is an appropriate candidate, by how much should his sentence be reduced?

The Court first determined that it does have discretion to provide relief. As an initial matter, the Court looked to the text of 18 U.S.C. § 3582 (c)(1)(A)(i). Congress tasked the U.S. Sentencing Commission with defining the phrase “extraordinary and compelling.” The Sentencing Commission’s current policy after passage of the First Step Act still states ...

Fourth Circuit: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Death Penalty Case for Failure to Investigate Fetal Alcohol Syndrome as Mitigating Factor During Sentencing Phase

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court’s finding that counsel in a capital case was ineffective for their failure to investigate potentially mitigating evidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (“FAS”) during the sentencing phase.

Charles Christopher Williams was convicted by a South ...

Ninth Circuit Reverses Convictions Where Trial Court Failed to Provide Oral Jury Instructions

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court’s failure to provide oral jury instructions on the applicable substantive law constitutes structural error requiring reversal of defendant’s conviction.

In February 2016, Cesar Becerra exercised his right to a jury trial on six ...

Indiana Supreme Court Reduces 30-Year Prison Sentence to 23-Year Community Corrections Placement in Rare Case

by Chad Marks

In August 2013, Lisa Livingston was arrested for various drug charges involving 3.35 grams of methamphetamine and one baggie of cocaine weighing 1.89 grams.

Livingston posted a $75,000 property bond and was released from jail. Part of the conditions of Livingston’s release was that she reside at ...

Seventh Circuit: Woman Answering Door of Suspect’s Residence Wearing Bathrobe Does Not Constitute Apparent Authority to Consent to Search

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit asked itself an interesting question, viz.: “Is it reasonable for officers to assume that a woman who answers the door in a bathrobe has authority to consent to a search of a male suspect’s residence?” The Court ...

Seventh Circuit Orders Grant of Successive § 2255 Motion and 
Resentencing in Pre-Booker Mandatory Guidelines Case Involving Elements Clause’s Definition of ‘Crime of Violence’

by Chad Marks

In 1987, Todd D’Antoni was charged with selling cocaine to a juvenile resulting in her death.

While being held in jail on those charges, he solicited another prisoner to kill a government witness for cash and drugs. That prisoner contacted law enforcement, agreeing to cooperate in regards ...

Fifth Circuit: Denial of Habeas Petition as Successive Reversed Where Second Petition Challenges a Separate Judgment, by Same Court, Not Covered in First Petition

by Chad Marks

In 1991, Steve Vic Parker was convicted in a state court in Texas for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (“UUMV”) and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. Parker was eventually released from prison on mandatory supervision and returned to prison for violating that supervision.

In 2010, ...

Idaho: ACLU Files Suit That Reveals Officials Misled Public About Costs Associated With Executions In State

by Chad Marks

 The ACLU of Idaho brought a lawsuit after the Idaho Department of Corrections refused to turn over execution-related records to a University of Idaho law professor.

Law professor Aliza Cover was denied execution-related documents after seeking copies of the records relating to two executions that took place ...



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