Skip navigation
Federal Prison Handbook

Articles by Douglas Ankney

New Hampshire Supreme Court Announces Defendant Not Required to Identify Evidentiary Support for Noticed Defense

Michael Munroe was a prisoner at the Rockingham County House of Corrections when he became involved in a fight with another prisoner identified as W.V. Munroe was charged with assault by a prisoner. Prior to trial, he filed a Notice of Self Defense and Notice of Competing Harms (“Notice”). The Notice stated that pursuant to RSA 627:4, Munroe “may rely on the defense of self defense.” His stated grounds for the notice were basically a recitation of the facts, some of which included that he stood accused of felony-level assault by a prisoner; that the State alleged he had caused serious bodily injury to W.V. by punching him at a time when Munroe was in custody; and that at a prison disciplinary hearing W.V. pleaded guilty to the charge of fighting.

The State objected to the Notice, arguing that Munroe wasn’t “entitled to argue self-defense as a matter of law based upon the offer of proof as contained within the [Notice].” According to the State, the Notice was deficient ...

Sixth Circuit Reverses District Court’s Grant of Summary Judgment to Defendants in § 1983 Suit Against City and Police Officers

After observing Lamar Wright pull into the driveway of a suspected drug dealer and then leave, Flagg and Williams followed him in an unmarked car. Wright pulled into another residential driveway. Flagg and Williams approached Wright with guns drawn. Williams shouted to Wright, commanding him to turn off his engine and exit his SUV. Wright placed the SUV in park and raised his hands. The officers holstered their guns.

Flagg jerked the driver’s side door open and grabbed Wright’s left arm, twisting it around behind him. Flagg then attempted to grab Wright’s right arm in order to handcuff him. Unable to secure the right arm, Flagg began pulling Wright from the vehicle. Wright had a colostomy bag stapled to his abdomen as the result of a recent surgery. In order to assist Flagg, Wright placed his right hand on the center console for leverage to enable him ...

Nebraska Supreme Court Announces Remand for New Sentencing Hearing Appropriate Remedy for Enhanced Vehicular Homicide Sentence Without Evidence of Prior Convictions

After leaving a party where he had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol, José A. Valdez struck another vehicle with his automobile. The driver of the other vehicle died from her injuries, and Valdez was charged with motor vehicle homicide. A blood test revealed that Valdez had .223 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. The State alleged that Valdez had prior convictions for driving under the influence (“DUI”) and operating a motor vehicle during a revocation period—either of which would enhance the motor vehicle homicide offense to a Class II felony.

Valdez pleaded guilty to the offense, and the State agreed to recommend a sentence not to exceed 25 years and not to pursue additional charges or restitution.

The district court accepted his plea, and the parties agreed to address the issue of enhancement at a later sentencing hearing. At that hearing, the court considered the offense to be enhanced ...

South Carolina Supreme Court: Failure to Give Logan Instruction Not Harmless Error Where Evidence Almost Entirely Circumstantial

Robin Herndon was a law enforcement officer whose live-in boyfriend, Christopher Rowley, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on medication because of his mood swings, aggression, and uncontrolled anger. Witnesses testified that they saw Herndon and Rowley arguing in front of their home. The two then retreated into the residence.

According to Herndon, Rowley then punched her. She drew her service weapon and warned him to leave. Rowley charged at her, swatting the gun. She shot and killed him.

The pathologist testified that the bullet trajectory was consistent with two scenarios: (1) Herndon shot Rowley as he walked up the steps to the house or (2) Rowley was charging Herndon when he was shot. The State elected to try Herndon on a murder charge based on the first scenario.

At trial, Herndon specifically requested the charge set forth in Logan. The trial court refused, opting instead to “go with the charge that’s in ...

Seventh Circuit: District Court Abused Discretion by Denying Relief Without First Considering Recalculations Under First Step Act

Corner was originally convicted of violating 21 U.S.C. § 841 and later violated the conditions of his supervised release. For the violation, he was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment followed by 42 months of supervised release. Shortly after Corner was sentenced, Congress passed the Act that retroactively applied the provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. (The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the statutory minimum penalties and increased the minimum amounts of crack cocaine necessary to trigger those penalties.) Corner filed a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) seeking a reduction of his 18 months’ revocation term and his 42 months of supervised release.

At issue in this case was whether §404’s retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act would result in Corner’s statutory range being reduced from five to 40 years to 0 to 20 years.

The ...

Colorado Supreme Court: Prosecution Prohibited From Arguing Defendant’s Failure to Retreat Showed Lack of Fear, Undermining Claim of Self-Defense

Sheila Renee Monroe got into an argument with a man on a city bus. Monroe showed the man she had a pocket knife. The man said he was going to call police. The man claimed that after he removed his phone and was dialing, Monroe stabbed him in the neck. A witness testified that the man had his phone in his hand and “was opening his jacket” when Monroe stabbed him. Monroe was charged with first-degree assault and attempted first-degree murder.

At trial, Monroe claimed that she acted in self-defense when the victim reached into his pocket.

During closing argument, the prosecutor said Monroe “didn’t have any duty to retreat, but she does have a clear line of retreat, if she’s actually scared for her safety.” Defense counsel objected, arguing that this imposed a duty to retreat. The trial court overruled the objection.

Calling the jury’s attention to the ...

Arizona Supreme Court Announces Cumulative Error Framework for Reviewing Multiple Instances of Prosecutorial Misconduct

A jury found Luis Armando Vargas guilty of several offenses, including first-degree murder. On appeal, Vargas argued that the prosecutor engaged in a “pervasive pattern of misconduct [that] cumulatively deprived [him] of his right to a fair trial.” Because trial counsel failed to object to the alleged misconduct, appellate counsel argued that the Court of Appeals should review the claim for fundamental error. Counsel supported this claim with 11 instances of alleged misconduct.

For all but three of the alleged instances of misconduct, the Court of Appeals concluded the argument waived because Vargas failed to set forth that each of those instances, by itself, was fundamental error. For each of these conclusions, the Court of Appeals relied on State v. Moreno-Medrano, 185 P.3d 135 (App. 2008). It concluded Vargas failed to establish cumulative error based on misconduct and affirmed. The Arizona Supreme Court accepted review.

The Court observed that Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 31.10(a)(7) sets out the procedure for properly raising and developing ...

Indiana Supreme Court: Must Be Immediate Causal Connection Between Confrontation and Other Crime by Defendant to Negate Self-Defense

Anthony Gammons, Jr. and his 10-year-old son stopped by the house of Gammons’ cousin. Gammons was immediately accosted by Derek Gilbert. Gammons knew that Gilbert liked to get drunk, fight, rob, and shoot at people. He also knew that Gilbert had previously been charged with murder. Even though Gammons was openly carrying a handgun, Gilbert squared up as if to punch Gammons, pulling at his waistband and asking if Gammons was “casket ready.”

Gammons later testified that he shot at Gilbert eight times because he feared for his life and the life of his son. But as soon as Gilbert retreated and ran away, Gammons stopped firing. Gilbert survived, and Gammons was charged with attempted murder.

At trial, Gammons conceded he was carrying the handgun without a license. Gammons requested that the court instruct the jury that he was “justified in using deadly ...

North Carolina Supreme Court: Defendant Can’t Be Convicted of Both Habitual Misdemeanor Assault and Felony Assault for Same Act

In November 2015, Fields and A.R. — a transgender woman — engaged in consensual sex. Afterward, while they were bathing, Fields seized A.R. by the hair, roughly grabbed and squeezed her genitals, and slammed her to the floor. As a result, A.R. needed 15 stitches to close the wound to her scrotum.

A jury convicted Fields of both misdemeanor assault and felony assault for his attack on A.R. Because Fields had stipulated to two prior misdemeanor assault convictions within the past 15 years, the superior court imposed a sentence of nine to 20 months for habitual misdemeanor assault and a consecutive sentence of 19 to 32 months for the felony assault. Fields appealed, arguing, inter alia, that he could not be convicted of both habitual misdemeanor assault and felony assault for the same act. The Court of Appeals agreed with Fields and vacated his habitual misdemeanor assault conviction. The North Carolina Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for discretionary review.

The Court observed that N.C.G.S. § 14-33(c)(1) (2019) (“misdemeanor ...

Medical Experts Publish Guidelines on SUDC

Unlike Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (“SIDS”), SUDC is the listed cause of death when a child age 12 months or older dies and the death cannot be explained after investigation and autopsy. And, unlike SIDS, SUDC is not usually part of the educational instruction received by pediatricians nor is it something medical examiners evaluate often enough to reach a comprehensive understanding.

The SUDC Foundation (“Foundation”) is the single organization dedicated to promoting research into SUDC. A grant from the Foundation paid for the development and publication of the first national consensus guidelines for SUDC.

“Unexplained Pediatric Deaths: Investigation, Certification, and Family Needs” was published in January 2020 by a panel of experts from over 30 contributors. The experts are from multiple disciplines, including medical examiners, pediatricians, and federal agency experts in fields such as death investigation, autopsy performance, neurology, child abuse, and many others.

A Canadian neuropathologist described the book as “amazing” and said, “Finally, practicing forensic pathologists have practice recommendations to follow, and achieve when ...



Prisoner Education Guide side
CLN Subscribe Now Ad
Prison Profiteers - Side