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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Chad Marks

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 ...

Wrongfully Convicted Detroit Man Who Spent 25 Years in Prison Files $125M Suit Alleging Detective Falsified Evidence

by Chad Marks

 The cards were stacked against Desmond Ricks when he went to trial for the 1992 murder of Gerry Bennett outside a Detroit Top Hat restaurant.

Detroit detectives got on the stand testifying that bullets taken from Bennett’s body belonged to the revolver belonging to Ricks’ mother.  Arlene ...

Fourth Circuit Rules Assault on Government Official Under North Carolina Statute Not a ‘Crime of Violence’

by Chad Marks

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Tomonta Simmons’ conviction for assault with a deadly weapon on a government official (“AWDWOGO”) under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-34.2 is not a crime of violence that can trigger a Grade A supervised release violation, and ...

Prosecutorial Power Used Too Often to Stop Prisoners From Getting Second Chance at Life

by Chad Marks

Alexander Hamilton once described the reasons for the existence of clemency as those of humanity and good policy. Both clemency and parole reflect a commitment to the ancient value of mercy, but many prosecutors use their power to block mercy from becoming a reality.

Prosecutors ...


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