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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Dale Chappell

Judge orders Tacoma to pay fines, attorney fees over stingray records

by Dale Chappell

A Pierce County judge hit the City of Tacoma, Washington, with nearly $300,000 in fines and fees for violating the state’s Public Records Act (“PRA”), when it failed to turn over records on its use of stingray devices.

The court said the city deliberately withheld documents that it should have disclosed under the PRA, which mandates that the city “must first do an adequate search and then produce the documents requested if there is not an exemption.” The PRA does not require the city to analyze why records are requested or to determine their relevance, the court said.

The city’s defense that the documents were “easily obtainable by any member of the public by doing a simple Google search,” and that most of the documents were published in the local paper anyway was “troubling in many regards,” the court said. “At a minimum, the city is required to inform the requestor of where it has placed the requested documents.”

A stingray device is used to determine a target cellphone’s location by spoofing a real cellphone tower with a strong signal forcing all phones in the area to connect to it. Users then ...

First Circuit Holds Sixth Amendment Speedy Trial Clock Starts Upon Original, Not Superseding, Indictment When Based on Same Act or Scheme

by Dale Chappell

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that a superseding indictment based on the same conduct as the original indictment does not reset the Sixth Amendment speedy trial clock and affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the charge in the indictment.

In March 2011, the government charged Raman Handa with 12 counts of wire fraud, but the government never notified him or his attorneys of the charges. When the government could not find Handa, it alerted the International Criminal Police Organization (“INTERPOL”) that there was a warrant for Handa’s arrest. Thereafter, the government made no effort to find Handa, even though he had been openly living in India and in England. He also had visited the U.S. embassy in India to update his passport with his address in New Delhi and applied for and received Social Security and Medicare benefits. The government finally got its man when Handa flew to Los Angeles in February 2017, where he was arrested on the 2011 charges.

Handa invoked his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial at his arraignment and filed a motion to dismiss the charges on speedy trial grounds. Two days before its ...

Nevada Supreme Court Announces Testimony at Probation Revocation Hearing Inadmissible in Later Criminal Proceeding

by Dale Chappell

Announcing a new rule to protect the constitutional rights of criminal defendants who face both probation revocation and new criminal charges, the Nevada Supreme Court held that testimony and evidence from a probation revocation hearing cannot be used against a criminal defendant at a later criminal proceeding, allowing defendants to defend themselves at the revocation hearing while protecting defendants from incriminating themselves later.

When Kamesha Cooper allegedly violated her probation for committing a new offense, her defense lawyer told her not to testify at the probation revocation hearing because that testimony would be used against her in the later criminal proceedings for the new charges. Good advice. Though constitutionally questionable, such a practice was permitted in Nevada at the time. As much as Cooper wanted to defend herself at the revocation hearing, she could not do so without making herself the State’s “chief witness” against her in the criminal case.

The district court, recognizing Cooper’s dilemma, stated she was “either going to be prejudiced here by not testifying or prejudiced potentially in the” criminal proceedings. Finding Cooper had violated her probation, the court revoked her probation. She appealed.

Because probation revocations are not criminal prosecutions, probationers are ...

D.C. Circuit Holds Generic Appeal Waiver Does Not Bar IAC Claim During Sentencing

by Dale Chappell

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that a “generic appeal waiver does not affect a defendant’s ability to appeal his sentence on yet-to-arise ineffective-assistance-of-counsel grounds.”

An unnamed defendant in a sealed case signed a plea agreement, on counsel’s advice, that included a generic appeal wavier stating that the defendant “waives any and all appeals and collateral attacks in this case and agrees that this case will become final once he has been sentenced.” However, the waiver did not explicitly address his right to appeal on ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) grounds.

Notwithstanding the generic waiver, the defendant appealed, arguing that counsel was ineffective during sentencing. The Government opposed, arguing the waiver barred any appeal. The Court agreed to hear the appeal despite the waiver.

A defendant can waive in a plea agreement the right to appeal a sentence that has not yet been imposed, as long as the decision to do so is knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. United States v. Guillen, 561 F.3d 527 (D.C. Cir. 2009). Generally, “an allegation that the sentencing judge misapplied the Sentencing Guidelines or abused his or her discretion is not subject ...

Ninth Circuit Affirms $4 Million Verdict for Couple Shot by L.A. County Deputies During Warrantless Entry into Their Home

by Dale Chappell

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a verdict, after remand by the U.S. Supreme Court, awarding $4 million to a couple who were shot by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies during a warrantless and unlawful entry of their home.

While Angel and Jennifer Mendez slept in their home, two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, Christopher Conley and Jennifer Pederson, broke in the door with guns drawn looking for a missing parolee. They didn’t have a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances to justify their entry, nor did they even announce their presence prior to entering. When Angel, who is deaf, moved a BB gun to place it on the floor, Conley opened fire, shooting Angel 10 times and Jennifer twice. Both recovered, but Angel lost most of his leg. Police were acting on bad information that the parolee was last seen in the area of the Mendezes’ home riding a bike. He was not in the home, and the Mendezes did not know the parolee.

The Mendezes filed claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging the officers violated ...

Kansas Supreme Court Holds Prosecutor’s Blatant Lies to Jury During Closing Argument Constituted Prosecutorial Misconduct Requiring Reversal of Murder Convictions

by Dale Chappell

A prosecutor’s lies amounted to prosecutorial misconduct requiring a new murder trial, the Supreme Court of Kansas held in a lengthy opinion exposing at least seven major errors by the prosecution.

The Court began its opinion with the following admonishment: “In a criminal prosecution, the State’s obligation is to ensure its case is vigorously, but properly, championed to bring about a just conviction—not merely a win.” It ended its opinion by lamenting, “this prosecution unfortunately illustrates how a desire to win can eclipse the State’s responsibility to safeguard the fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial owed to any defendant facing criminal prosecution in a Kansas courtroom.”

Dana Chandler was accused of murder after her ex-husband and his girlfriend (Mike and Karen) were found dead in their home July 2002. The only evidence police had against Chandler was a nasty divorce and her sometimes obsessive behavior toward Mike and Karen. Nine years later, Chandler was arrested for the murders, charged with premeditated first-degree murder, and went to trial.

The State convinced the jury to convict Chandler — in part by lying. The prosecutor, Jacqueline Spradling, told the jury that Mike had to obtain a protection ...

Maryland Court of Appeals Announces Proper Procedure for In Banc Review

by Dale Chappell

In a case where in banc review was improperly granted to review a circuit court’s ruling, the Court of Appeals of Maryland took the opportunity to clarify when in banc review can be granted.

After the circuit court granted Bashunn Phillips’ pretrial motion to exclude evidence from his murder trial, the State filed for in banc review of the court’s order. The in banc panel reversed the circuit court’s order, and Phillips appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. Reversing the in banc panel’s decision, the Court of Special Appeals held that the State had no right to appeal the circuit court’s order to the in banc panel, and the panel therefore did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The State appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Before the Court of Appeals, the State argued that it had the right under Article IV, § 22 of the Maryland Constitution to appeal to the in banc panel. The Court framed issue as, “Whether the in banc court was lawfully created” at all.

Under Article IV, §22 of the Maryland Constitution, a party may challenge a circuit court’s decision to “three judges of the Circuit, who shall constitute ...

Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds Seven-Year Delay and Inability to Receive Sex Offender Treatment While Awaiting SDP Trial Violates Due Process

by Dale Chappell

“While substantive due process permits limited confinement after a probable cause determination, it does not permit the Commonwealth to hold an individual indefinitely while repeatedly seeking a finding of sexual dangerousness,” the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts said in holding that a seven-year delay in finding a person was sexually dangerous, coupled with lack of sex offender treatment, violated the person’s due process rights under the U.S. Constitution, requiring the Commonwealth to provide for supervised release while awaiting another sexually dangerous person (“SDP”) trial.

After the Commonwealth failed to convince three separate juries that “G.F.” was an SDP, necessitating civil commitment under G.L.c. 123A, over the course of seven years while he sat in a civil commitment center, he turned to the courts for relief. Across almost 17 pages of its opinion, the Massachusetts Supreme Court dissected the lengthy procedural history of G.F.’s civil commitment proceedings. Having been convicted at age 24 of molesting a friend’s teen daughters, G.F. was later convicted of three more sexual offenses in a similar fashion over the next decade. The fourth and final offense was when he bound and gagged his girlfriend’s ...

New Jersey Supreme Court Holds DNA Exception Tolling Statute of Limitations Applies Only to Suspect Directly Identified by DNA

by Dale Chappell

Tolling of the statute of limitations under the DNA statute applies only to the “actor” directly linked to the crime by the DNA, and not to others involved in the crime, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held. The Court interpreted the word ‘actor’ to mean only the person directly identified by the DNA.

When DNA evidence identified the defendants in two separate cases, those defendants talked, implicating others involved in their crimes. But the statute of limitations for the offense had long passed, absent any tolling under the DNA statute. The persons implicated in the cases argued that because the DNA did not “directly link” them to the crimes, the tolling provision for the applicable statute of limitations could not apply to them. The trial court agreed and dismissed the indictments, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for certification and affirmed the lower courts’ rulings.

For most crimes, there is a statute of limitations that imposes a deadline on how long after a crime a person can be charged with the offense. However, the DNA-tolling exception under N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6(c) delays the running of the statute ...

Louisiana Supreme Court Holds Counsel’s Failure to Challenge ‘Stark Contrasts’ in Witness ID and Defendant’s Appearance Constituted IAC

by Dale Chappell

Counsel’s failure to challenge the “stark contrasts” between witness descriptions of a suspect and the defendant clearly affected the jury’s conclusion, the Supreme Court of Louisiana held, remanding for a new trial.

With the help of law enforcement, two robbery victims identified Leroy Jackson as one of the men who robbed them. One witness said Jackson “looked a lot like” the robber, and another said he was not sure because “all black people look alike to him.” The details given by the witness to police described a man with a distinct hairline who was larger than Jackson. Jackson was not only smaller, but he was completely bald. Defense counsel ignored these discrepancies and never challenged the witness identifications in court. Jackson was convicted of robbery and sentenced to 50 years in prison. The court of appeal affirmed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Jackson’s writ.

When Jackson filed for collateral review claiming ineffective assistance of counsel, the district court noted the problems with cross-racial identifications and found that Jackson’s counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the witness identifications. Jackson was granted a new trial, but the court of appeal overturned the district court’s ruling, holding ...


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