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The Habeas Citebook Ineffective Counsel

Articles by Christopher Zoukis

Prosecutorial Misconduct: Justice Denied as the System Turns a Blind Eye

by Christopher Zoukis

How do rogue forensic scientists and other bad cops thrive in our criminal justice system? The simple answer is that some prosecutors turn a blind eye to such misconduct because they’re more interested in gaining a conviction than achieving a just result. — Judge Alex Kozinski, U.S. ...

Partial Justice

How a Judiciary Poisoned by Politics, Ideology, and Unaccountability Contributes to the Wrongful Conviction of Innocent Men and Women

by Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Alexander Hamilton said in Federalist Paper No. 78 that the judiciary “may truly be said to have neither force nor will but merely judgment.” Because the judiciary lacks the legislative purse and the executive sword, compliance with such judgment is largely voluntary. The Founding Fathers recognized this disability and crafted a judiciary that is grounded in impartiality, integrity, and independence.

A judiciary that is true to these critical principles has the confidence of the people and the respect of the other branches of government. The need for confidence in judicial integrity is, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “genuine and compelling.” Without it, the American system of government under law is placed in serious jeopardy.

The last several decades have seen the judicial principles of impartiality, integrity, and independence eroded from within and attacked from without. Political campaigning for judicial office is rampant across the states, with rivers of cash flowing in from partisan sources. Judges running for election routinely jettison even the facade of impartiality, declaring themselves “tough on crime” and “pro-prosecution.” Ideological and ...

Hawaii Supreme Court Finally Complies with SCOTUS’ Apprendi Decision, Vacates Enhanced Sentence Based on Fact Determined by Judge, Not Jury

by Christopher Zoukis

The Supreme Court of Hawaii, in ruling that a criminal defendant’s enhanced sentence violated the U.S. Constitution, has come on board with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000). The opinion by Hawaii’s high court put an end ...

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Clarifies Proper Evidentiary Standard and Type of Evidence for Informal Competency Hearing

by Christopher Zoukis

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas reversed a trial court’s refusal to grant a criminal defendant a formal competency evaluation, finding that the trial court and court of appeals erred by improperly considering evidence and applying the incorrect evidentiary standard. Unfortunately for the potentially incompetent defendant, ...

Idaho Supreme Court: Temporary and Isolated Crossing of the ‘Fog Line’ Not Enough to Support a Traffic Stop

by Christopher Zoukis

The Supreme Court of Idaho ruled that a brief, single incident of crossing the outer line in a lane of travel (“fog line”) does not amount to a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the law was violated. The Court upheld a lower court’s order suppressing evidence found following ...

Louisiana Supreme Court Vacates Conviction for Batson Violation

by Christopher Zoukis

The Supreme Court of Louisiana affirmed a court of appeals determination that a trial court erred when it denied a Batson challenge to the State striking one of two black jurors from a criminal trial panel because the trial court rejected the State’s first reason for ...

Sixth Circuit: Tennessee Aggravated Sexual Battery Is Not a SORNA Tier III Offense

by Christopher Zoukis

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that a defendant previously convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Tennessee should not have been classified as a Tier III sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). The June 8, 2018, opinion vacated ...

Fourth Circuit Vacates USSG Career Offender Sentence Predicated on Georgia Robbery

by Christopher Zoukis

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated a prisoner’s sentence because the district court improperly found that Georgia robbery qualified the defendant for the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines career offender designation. The Court sent the case back to the lower court for resentencing.

In 1992, ...

Ninth Circuit Remands Drug Case for Reconsideration of Sentencing Guidelines’ Minor-Role Adjustment

by Christopher Zoukis

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated a drug defendant’s sentence because the district court may have misinterpreted United States Sentencing Guideline (“USSG”) § 3B1.2 and Amendment 794, which allow a court to make a Guidelines adjustment when a defendant played a minor ...

California Court of Appeal: Youth Offender Parole Statute Trumps Consecutive Prison Term Statute

by Christopher Zoukis

The Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, ruled that a statute granting prisoners who were convicted as youth offenders improved parole eligibility possibilities supersedes a different statute that requires prisoners convicted and sentenced for in-prison crimes to serve their new sentence consecutively. The June 6, ...




 

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