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The Habeas Citebook: Prosecutorial Misconduct

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Mississippi Supreme Court Vacates Capital Murder Conviction Obtained With Bite Mark Comparison Evidence

On February 2, 1992, smoke from a small, smoldering fire led to the discovery of the body of Georgia Kemp, 84, in her house. An autopsy determined that she had been beaten, raped, strangled, and stabbed; however, no bite marks were found on her body, which was subsequently buried.

Three days later, the doctor who performed the autopsy requested an additional study of Kemp’s body, which was exhumed and examined under ultraviolet light by Dr. Michael West, a forensic odontologist. He discovered otherwise invisible marks on the right breast, right side of the neck, and right arm. He used dental impressions of Eddie Lee Howard, Jr.’s teeth to perform a “wound duplication test with ink” and determined that the mark on the right breast ...

Eleventh Circuit: Time Served Adjustment Is Mandatory Under Sentencing Guidelines Even After Booker

Christopher Henry pleaded guilty in Alabama state court to stealing eight firearms during a business burglary. Because of his prior convictions – one for assault and 10 for burglary – he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Two years later, Henry pleaded guilty in federal court to being a felon in possession of a firearm – based on his theft of the firearms. His presentencing investigation report showed a Guidelines range of 130 to 162 months but was reduced to the statutory maximum for his crime, 120 months. The court sentenced him to 108 months. 

Henry requested a downward adjustment of his sentence for the 24 months he had already served on the state burglary conviction pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5Gl.3(b)(l). Citing his lengthy criminal ...

Michigan Supreme Court: Probation Compliance Check During Unlawfully Extended Probation Was Unauthorized Warrantless Search

The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled that a probation officer who found heroin during a compliance check after the probation had ended and then been unlawfully extended conducted an unauthorized warrantless search.

John D. Vandenpool was sentenced to two years of probation on June 24, 2013. On September 23, 2015, his probation officer petitioned the court to extend his probation until June 25, 2016, because he had been on “warrant status” during part of the probation and had not paid all of his fines and fees. The extension was granted.

On November 12, 2015, the probation officer applied for a warrant for Vanderpool because he had failed a drug screening. On December 3, 2015, he applied for another warrant because Vanderpool failed to show up for his weekly appointment at the probation office. The next day, the probation officer conducted a “compliance check” of Vanderpool’s home and found a small amount of heroin, which Vanderpool admitted was his. This led to Vanderpool’s prosecution for possession of under 25 grams of heroin.

Vanderpool filed a motion to suppress the heroin, which was denied. Vanderpool pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 18 months to eight years for possession ...

California Court of Appeal Holds Canizales Decision Limiting Kill Zone Theory Applies Retroactively

Juan Marshall Rayford and Dupree Antoine Glass were each convicted of 11 counts of attempted willful, deliberate, premeditated murder and one count of shooting at an inhabited building and found true gang and firearms enhancements. The trial court sentenced each to 11 consecutive life sentences for the attempted murders and 20 additional years for each count on the firearms enhancements. It stayed the sentences on the gang enhancements and shooting at an inhabited dwelling.

The convictions stemmed from a 2004 shooting at the house of Sheila Williams, where she lived with her three daughters, Donisha, Shaddona, and Shontel.

Glass was 17 years old; Rayford was 18. Glass was friends with Donisha and a frequent guest who was considered a “member of the family.” Rayford went to school with one of Sheila’s daughters.

There was a party for friends and family at the house. Glass and Perry, Shelia’s 17-year-old nephew, began to argue. Glass gathered ...

Fourth Circuit: Sentencing Procedurally Unreasonable Where Special Condition Not Explained and Mitigation Argument Not Addressed

Jamil Lewis, 36, was arrested in his North Carolina residence on state charges involving sexual crimes against a minor. Police discovered a handgun in plain view in his residence, and due to a previous felony conviction, he was charged with possessing a firearm as a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(l) and 924. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina had received a federal probation office’s presentence report calculating his offense level as 17 and category as VI, with a Sentencing Guidelines range of 51 to 63 months. The report also noted that Lewis denied “ever drinking alcohol or using illicit substances” and no information to the contrary had been found.

Lewis submitted “character” letters from his mother and the mother of one of his children, Sydney Campbell. His mother described him as having ...

Second Circuit Announces Categorical Approach Applies to State Convictions for Sentencing Enhancement Determination Under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)

In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Jeremy L. Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846.

The Government had filed a sentencing enhancement information citing his prior conviction for attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 220.31, which criminalizes the sale of hundreds of controlled substances listed in N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 3306.

Thompson admitted to the prior conviction but contested whether a § 220.31 conviction qualifies as a predicate “felony drug offense,” as required by § 841(b)(1)(B) to trigger enhancement under the categorical approach which, he argued, the district court was required to use. Under the categorical approach, a conviction may not be used for enhancement if the state ...

Sixth Circuit Vacates Firearms Possession Conviction; Government Showed Jury Unauthenticated Prejudicial Facebook Video Not Admitted as Evidence

On March 27, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit vacated a firearms possession conviction from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio because the Government showed the jury a social-media video of a masked person it alleged was the defendant holding a firearm, without authenticating the video or seeking its admission as evidence.

Terrance Craig was a passenger in an SUV involved in an exchange of gunfire with another vehicle. Police saw Craig toss something into the backseat and recovered a 9 mm handgun with an extended magazine on which they later discovered Craig’s DNA. When arrested, Craig was wearing a shoulder holster. On the way to the police station, an arresting officer said he had seen a Facebook rap video of Craig holding a similar extended-magazine handgun.

Craig was charged with one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition after a felony conviction in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

During the trial, both arresting officers told the jury about the rap video, saying it was Craig, and he was wearing the jacket from the video when arrested.

Craig admitted that he was a felon and possessed the ...

Sixth Circuit Vacates Firearms Possession Conviction; Government Showed Jury Unauthenticated Prejudicial Facebook Video Not Admitted as Evidence

by Matt Clarke

In March 27, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit vacated a firearms possession conviction from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio because the Government showed the jury a social-media video of a masked person it alleged was the defendant holding a firearm, without authenticating the video or seeking its admission as evidence.

Terrance Craig was a passenger in an SUV involved in an exchange of gunfire with another vehicle. Police saw Craig toss something into the backseat and recovered a 9 mm handgun with an extended magazine on which they later discovered Craig’s DNA. When arrested, Craig was wearing a shoulder holster. On the way to the police station, an arresting officer said he had seen a Facebook rap video of Craig holding a similar extended-magazine handgun.

Craig was charged with one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition after a felony conviction in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

During the trial, both arresting officers told the jury about the rap video, saying it was Craig, and he was wearing the jacket from the video when arrested.

Craig admitted that he was a felon and possessed the ...

Racism and Wrongful Convictions

The meaning of “race” is not clearly defined. Further, perhaps due to ...

Complexity and Lack of Standardization Makes Crime Statistics Less Useful

A lack of standardization in crime statistics and the complexity of the causes of and cures for crime have made the use of crime statistics difficult.

For instance, whether using marijuana causes crime is an important question as more states consider legalizing recreational marijuana. Legalization proponents could ...

 

 

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