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Senn testified that he saw Winkler and Jenkins in his yard. Jenkins dropped a gasoline jug and ran into the woods with Winkler. Senn told his wife, Sherri, to call the police and fired shots into the woods. Senn smelled gasoline and saw that it had been poured on his porch, the side of his house, and on his cars. Sherri testified that her brother, Abercrombie, had a long-running feud with Winkler. Abercrombie lived approximately 100 yards from her house. Sherri testified that, days before the incident, her sister-in-law played for her a voicemail message from Winkler, stating: “You are going to die, you are going to burn.” Winkler unsuccessfully moved to impeach Senn with his previous felony conviction for reckless endangerment. Winkler unsuccessfully objected to Sherri’s testimony as inadmissible character evidence. Convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder and for attempted aggravated arson, Winkler appealed. His counsel filed the trial record, except for the transcript of his motion for a new trial. Without it, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the evidentiary issues for plain error, found none, and affirmed; that court also denied Winkler’s post-conviction petition, stating that counsel's failure to prepare an adequate appellate record does not, alone, amount to ineffective assistance. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of his habeas petition, rejecting his argument that under Supreme Court precedent (Entsminger (1967)), failure to file a portion of the record entitled him to presumed prejudice in the ineffective-assistance analysis. View "Winkler v. Parris" on Justia Law

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Michigan prisons allow Wiccan inmates to worship as a group for eight major holidays (Sabbats). Wiccans celebrate other holidays (Esbats) 12-13 times a year. Wiccans are not permitted to congregate on Esbats and permits Wiccan inmates to use candles and incense only in the prison’s chapel. Cavin asked the Department of Corrections to allow him and other Wiccans to celebrate Esbats together. Officials denied his request. He filed suit, requesting injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc-1(a), and sought damages. At summary judgment, the court ruled that Eleventh Amendment immunity barred the damages claims against the Department of Corrections; that Chaplain Leach deserved qualified immunity; and that only Cavin’s RLUIPA claim for religious accommodation could proceed. After a bench trial, the court rejected Cavin’s RLUIPA claim for injunctive relief, concluding that the prison’s regulations implicate but do not burden Cavin’s exercise of religion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the grant of qualified immunity and the denial of appointed counsel but vacated with respect to injunctive relief under RLUIPA, remanding for a determination of whether the Department’s policy survives scrutiny under RLUIPA. A policy substantially burdens religious exercise when it bars an inmate from worshipping with others and from using ritualistic items. View "Cavin v. Michigan Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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An average “dose” of methamphetamine weighs between one-tenth and one-quarter of a gram; there are 28.3 grams to an ounce. Potter confessed to selling 10 pounds. Potter, had been convicted of seven prior drug offenses. His prior statements about his drug sales supported his conviction for a different conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine that used similar methods, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 846. His prior drug offenses supported his mandatory life sentence, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A)(viii). The Sixth Circuit affirmed rejecting an argument that the police elicited his statements after he invoked his “Miranda” right to an attorney and violated the Edwards v. Arizona bright-line rule to stop questioning. Potter initially told the agents he did not wish to speak to them. They honored his request; it was Potter who initiated the exchange with them the next day. Before that interrogation, Potter received Miranda warnings and signed a waiver. The court also rejected arguments that the Eighth Amendment prohibited his mandatory term of life because the child-focused logic of Miller v. Alabama should expand to cover adults who commit nonviolent offenses and that the court should have sustained his relevancy and prejudice objections because his statements discussed different actors (not charged in the indictment) and an earlier time, before the indictment’s start date. View "United States v. Potter" on Justia Law

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Investigating robberies in Michigan and Ohio in 2010-2012, the government obtained court orders under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) 18 U.S.C. 2703(d) to obtain Carpenter’s cell-site location information. Unlike other provisions of the SCA, the court-ordered production mechanism in section 2703(d) does not require law enforcement to get a warrant before acquiring such records. Carpenter’s wireless carriers were to provide “the locations of cell/site sector (physical addresses) for the target telephones at call origination and at call termination for incoming and outgoing calls.” MetroPCS produced records spanning 127 days. Sprint produced two days of records covering the period when Carpenter’s phone was “roaming” in northeastern Ohio. The government used the records to establish his physical proximity to many of the robberies: Convicted of Hobbs Act robbery and related gun charges, 18 U.S.C. 924(c) and 1951(a), Carpenter was sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court held that the acquisition of Carpenter’s cell-site records was a Fourth Amendment search that requires a warrant supported by probable cause. On remand, the Sixth Circuit again affirmed. The unconstitutionality of the government’s search was not clear until after the Supreme Court ruling. The FBI agents who obtained Carpenter’s information acted in good faith, reasonably relying on the SCA. View "United States v. Carpenter" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Williams pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm. He had prior Ohio convictions: attempted felonious assault, domestic violence, and assault on a peace officer, and was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months’ imprisonment under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. 924(e) (ACCA). Williams twice, unsuccessfully moved to vacate his sentence. Subsequently, in "Johnson," the Supreme Court found ACCA's residual clause, section 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), unconstitutional and held that courts must apply Johnson retroactively. Williams filed a third motion, arguing that his prior convictions no longer counted as ACCA predicate offenses. The Sixth Circuit authorized the district court to consider whether Williams’ felonious assault conviction still qualified as an ACCA violent felony, noting its 2012 holding that Ohio felonious assault in Ohio requires the use of physical force and is an ACCA elements clause predicate offense. The district court held, and the Sixth Circuit agreed, that that the Johnson holding was not implicated. The en banc court then remanded. On remand, the panel vacated the sentence, first holding that Williams qualifies for review under 28 U.S.C. 2255. Williams was not convicted of an ostensibly enumerated crime and it seems clear that the judge relied decisively on the residual clause in determining that Williams’s conviction qualified as an ACCA predicate. View "Williams v. United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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In 2002, Ruska drove a 19-year-old woman down a two-track road in rural Michigan, stopped the car, and revealed he had a handgun. The woman asked him several times to take her home, but Ruska raped her three times. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge: assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. The court sentenced him to one year in jail. After his release, Ruska raped another woman and pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison. Within two years after he was discharged on parole, Ruska attacked another woman and raped her repeatedly over several days until the police found them in the Hiawatha National Forest, which is under federal territorial jurisdiction. Ruska pleaded guilty to kidnapping and three counts of sexual abuse. The district court sentenced him to life in prison for each count. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The “three strikes” statute, 18 U.S.C. 3559(c), mandated a life sentence. Ruska’s 2002 conviction under Mich. Comp. Laws 750.84,1 qualified as a serious violent felony under the elements clause of the three strikes statute. View "United States v. Ruska" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Fazica was arrested for drunk driving and taken to the Bloomfield County Police Department, and then to Oakland County Jail, which was alerted that she was intoxicated, yelling, and spitting. A Cell Extraction Team met Fazica upon her arrival. She alleges that they roughly removed her from the vehicle and immediately applied a spit hood that nearly entirely obscured her vision. The Team handcuffed her in a bent-over position, handled her forcefully, and threatened her with a taser. The entirely male team took Fazica to a room where she was made to lie on her stomach and was strip-searched. Her pants were torn off her; one officer placed his hands on her genitals and another groped her breasts. Fazica was then made to walk to a cell wearing only her bra and the hood. The hood prevented her from attributing certain specific acts to specific officers. Fazica sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that four officers used excessive force. Defendants moved for summary judgment on qualified-immunity grounds, arguing only that Fazica cannot show each officer’s personal involvement in the allegedly unconstitutional acts. The district court denied their motion. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. A reasonable jury could find, based on the record evidence, that each defendant either committed or observed and failed to stop the allegedly unconstitutional acts. View "Fazica v. Jordan" on Justia Law

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services collects blood samples from nearly every newborn baby in Michigan, to test for diseases. After testing, the samples are transferred to the Michigan Neonatal Biobank and stored for future use by the state. Plaintiffs challenged the law, claiming that blood is drawn from newborns and retained without the consent or knowledge of the newborns’ parents. Plaintiffs allege that despite Defendants’ assurances that all blood samples are secure and not identifiable to the individuals from whom they were taken, some samples have been given up under court orders and some are being sold to researchers. The Sixth Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of their complaint. Plaintiffs have standing to pursue claims for: damages based on alleged violations of the parents’ and the children’s substantive due process rights when the blood samples were collected and screened; damages, injunctive, and declaratory relief, based on alleged violations of the parents’ and children’s substantive due process rights by retention of the samples; damages based on alleged violations of the parents’ and children’s Fourth Amendment rights when the samples were collected and screened; injunctive and declaratory relief, based on alleged violations of the children’s Fourth Amendment rights by’ retention of their samples. Rights related to directing the medical care of children devolve upon their parents or guardians; the children’s rights were not violated when Defendants drew their blood, screened it, and stored it. State sovereign immunity and qualified immunity bar all claims alleging that the parents’ substantive due process rights were violated when Defendants drew their children’s blood and screened it. Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that Defendants’ retention of the samples violates the parents’ fundamental rights. The court remanded that issue and Fourth Amendment claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief for Defendants’ ongoing storage of the samples. View "Kanuszewski v. Michigan Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Fox used Amazon.com to order a hoverboard equipped with a battery pack. Although Fox claims she thought she was buying from Amazon, the hoverboard was owned and sold by a third-party that used Amazon marketplace, which handles communications with the buyer and processes payments. The board arrived in an Amazon-labeled box. The parties dispute whether Amazon provided storage and shipment. In November 2015, following news reports of hoverboard fires and explosions, Amazon began an investigation. On December 11, Amazon ceased all hoverboard sales worldwide. Approximately 250,000 hoverboards had been sold on its marketplace in the previous 30 days. Amazon anticipated more fires and explosions, scheduling employees to work on December 26, to monitor news reports and customer complaints. On December 12, Amazon sent a "non-alarmist" email to hoverboard purchasers. Fox does not recall receiving the email but testified that she would not have let the hoverboard remain in her home had she known all the facts. On January 9, Matthew Fox played with the hoverboard and left it on the first floor of the family’s two-story home. When a fire later broke out, caused by the hoverboard’s battery pack, two children were trapped on the second floor. Everyone escaped with various injuries; their home was destroyed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of allegations that Amazon sold the defective or unreasonably dangerous product (Tennessee Products Liability Act) and caused confusion about the source of that product (Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977) but reversed a claim that Amazon breached a duty to warn about the defective or unreasonably dangerous nature of that product under Tennessee tort law. View "Fox v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Federal officials received a tip from Canadian authorities that Lynde was trading child pornography online. An investigation uncovered that he had exchanged 62 images on the online application “Kik.” Executing a search warrant at Lynde’s home, federal agents recovered 322 images and five videos of child pornography. The images showed prepubescent minors, including toddlers, engaged in genital-to-genital intercourse with adult males. Lynde pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2), which carries a statutory maximum of 20 years, 18 U.S.C. 2252(b)(1). Lynde’s presentence report applied five USSG 2G2.2 enhancements: Lynde’s offense involved children under 12, Lynde knowingly distributed child pornography, the child pornography presented sadistic or masochistic conduct and the sexual abuse of a toddler, Lynde had used a computer, and Lynde possessed over 600 images, With no criminal history, he faced a Guidelines range between 151-188 months. The district court decided that a Guidelines sentence would be “longer than necessary” under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), considering that almost all child pornography involves computers, Lynde’s family circumstances, and otherwise exemplary life, and imposed a 97-month sentence. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to USSG 2G2.2, based on the fact that the Sentencing Commission has criticized the section in a report to Congress. View "United States v. Lynde" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law