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Articles by Douglas Ankney

Ninth Circuit: Younger Abstention Doctrine Inapplicable Where Habeas Petitioner Seeks Stay While § 1172.6 Petition in State Court Being Litigated and Petitioner Entitled to Stay of Habeas Proceedings While State Petition Pending

by Douglas Ankney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), is inapplicable where a petitioner moved for a stay of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus and that the petitioner ...

California Supreme Court Clarifies Harmless-Error Analysis of Alternative-Theory Error, Reverses and Remands Where Court of Appeal Applied Incorrect Standard

by Douglas Ankney

The Supreme Court of California reversed a judgment of the Court of Appeal (“COA”) and remanded because the COA incorrectly applied the harmless-error analysis of People v. Aledamat, 447 P.3d 277 (Cal. 2019), where the jury was instructed with both a legally valid theory and a ...

Ninth Circuit Explains Martinez ‘Cause’ and ‘Prejudice’ to Excuse Procedural Default in Federal Habeas Proceeding Where Claim of IAC in State Proceedings Was Procedurally Defaulted Due to Postconviction Counsel’s Failure to Timely Raise Claim

by Douglas Ankney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explained the “cause and prejudice” framework of Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), in the context of a federal habeas proceeding where a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial (“Trial IAC”) in a state ...

Study: ‘Inconclusive Finding’ by Examiner of Cartridge Casing Should Be Finding of ‘Excluded’ 85% of the Time

by Douglas Ankney

A recent study by researchers from Arizona State University (“ASU”) “found that 85% of cartridge cases that were judged inconclusive by forensic firearm examiners were actually fired by two different guns. In an actual crime scene investigation, that would mean that the cartridge cases did not match ...

Electrocution by Taser Is Not Death From Excited Delirium

by Douglas Ankney

A rose by another name may still be a rose, but electrocution by a cop’s taser is deemed death from excited delirium. At least, that was the determination until recently. In March 2023, the National Association of Medical Examiners (“NAME”) said “excited delirium” should not be cited ...

Fourth Circuit Vacates Denial of First Step Act Relief Where Record Unclear Whether District Court Considered All Nonfrivolous Arguments Raised by Defendant

by Douglas Ankney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the denial of a motion seeking a sentence reduction under § 404(b) of the First Step Act of 2018 (“FSA”) because the record was unclear as to whether the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of ...

Sixth Circuit: Plain Error Where District Court Required Defendant at Resentencing to Admit Guilt in Order to Fully Consider Defendant’s Evidence of Rehabilitation

by Douglas Ankney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found plain error where the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee required Nickless Whitson to admit guilt in order to fully consider Whitson’s evidence of rehabilitation.

Whitson was initially convicted of eight felonies, including ...

Colorado’s Amendments to Post-Conviction DNA Testing Statute Allows Greater Number of Affected Persons to Seek Testing

by Douglas Ankney

On March 10, 2023, Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 1034 (“HB 1034”) into law, opening the door to a greater number of people convicted of felonies to be eligible for DNA testing. Colorado’s previous law allowed only people who are actively incarcerated to receive DNA ...

Tenth Circuit Announces District Court Erred in Applying Attempted Murder Cross-Reference Under U.S.S.G. § 2A2.1 Based on Malice Aforethought, Without Finding Intent to Kill

by Douglas Ankney

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma erred in applying United States Sentencing Guideline (“U.S.S.G.”) § 2A2.1(a)(2) without a specific finding of an intent to kill.

A jury convicted Jimmy Lee Brooks of ...

DOJ Concludes Louisville Police Engaging in Patterns of Unconstitutional Conduct

by Douglas Ankney

After conducting a two-year investigation in the wake of the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) concluded that the Louisville Metro Police Department (“LMPD”) engages in patterns of unconstitutional practices. The DOJ interviewed hundreds of officers and community members, ...



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