Criminal Law Blog

2019: The (Early) Year in Review (Part 4)



Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Free Image 1428123, Public Domain

Garza v. Idaho
, 139 S. Ct. 738 (2019)–

  • Holding:When trial counsel fails to file an appeal as instructed, the presumption of prejudice identified in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470 (2000), applies, even when the defendant has signed an explicit waiver of appeal.
  • Of Note: This opinion abrogatesStewart v. United States, 37 A.3d 870, 877 (D.C. 2012).

Blackmon v. U.S., 18-CO-73 (decided September 12, 2019)–

  • Holding: Where appellant claimed that counsel’s ineffective assistance led him to reject a plea offer,see Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (2012), the trial court did not err in finding that appellant was not prejudiced by his lawyer’s advice regarding the maximum sentence he could receive if he went to trial, given the court’s determination that appellant could not have “gotten through a plea colloquy,” even if he had tried to accept the government’s offer. “That finding was in essence a finding that the court would have rejected appellant’s plea.” Slip Op. at 16.

See also Smith v. U.S., 15-CO-363 (decided March 14, 2019) (finding no prejudice from counsel's failure to present evidence of self-defense, where the record showed that appellant “deliberately chose to risk the fatal encounter . . . by arming himself . . .and going to confront” the decedent, and had “initiated the confrontation . . . with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm.” ). Read the fullSmithsynopsis in the self-defense section of the (Early) Year in Review (Part 3).

Double Jeopardy

Alex Trebek by Anders Krausberg/Peabody Awards,
licensed under Creative Commons

Andre v. U.S.
, 18-CO-1221 (decided August 15, 2019) –

  • Holding:The Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar re-trial following the reversal of a conviction on appeal, even assuming re-conviction would expose the defendant to no additional punishment and result in no further collateral legal consequences.

Criminal Record Sealing

Image of Redacted Material from Wikimedia Commons

Larracuente v. U.S.
, 18-CO-308 (decided July 11, 2019) –

  • Holding:The motions court did not err or abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s motion to seal his arrest and conviction for possession with intent to distribute marijuana, where the plea allocution and relevant reports indicated that he possessed more than the decriminalized amount. Notwithstanding the charge and the wide variety of conduct it could encompass, the record sealing statute neither requires nor allows sealing if the government proves by a preponderance of the evidence that appellant was guilty of conduct that has not been decriminalized.

Washington v. U.S., 17-CO-1056 (decided April 25, 2019)–

  • Holding:Where a single case contains records of arrest and/or conviction for both decriminalized and non-decriminalized offenses, the record sealing statute “gives the Superior Court discretion, in the interest of justice, to seal the portions of a case record pertaining to now-decriminalized or legalized [marijuana possession], but does not authorize the court to seal the portions of a case record pertaining to an accompanying, still-criminal or still-illegal offense.” Slip Op. at 11.

Innocence Protection Act (IPA)

Double Stranded DNA with Coloured Bases, licensed under Creative Commons

Jones v. U.S.
, 15-CO-1104 (decided March 7, 2019) –

  • Holding:Under the IPA, once the government proffers that it has conducted a reasonable search for testable biological material, a court may deny an application for post-conviction DNA testing without an evidentiary hearing, unless the defendant objects and raises a genuine dispute as to the reasonableness of the search. Slip Op. at 37-41. However, a hearing may be required to determine whether the government should be sanctioned for failing to preserve evidence that is relevant to a motion for new trial. Id. at 41-42.

Rule 11

Maddux v. D.C., 15-CT-1195 (decided July 25, 2019)–

  • Holding: Following appellant’s request for pretrial release to care for his disabled children, a magistrate judge’s statements that (a) she would likely detain appellant for a failed drug test until the case “resolved one way or the other” and that (b) defense counsel was “free to talk to [the government] about whether there’s any kind of offer” that might let him “to return to his family” did not invalidate appellant’s subsequent guilty plea. Specifically, the statements did not constitute “coercion” or “participation” in the plea negotiations in violation of Rule 11, and did not require the judge to ask whether appellant’s sole reason for pleading guilty was to avoid detention.

Eighth Amendment

Williams v. U.S., 16-CO-570 (decided April 4, 2019) –

  • Holding:Assuming thatMiller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), andMontgomery v. Louisiana, 126 S. Ct. 718 (2016), retroactively constrain a judge’s discretion to impose ade factojuvenile life without parole sentence—one that places parole eligibility beyond the life expectancy of someone who was under eighteen at the time of his offense—such a sentence need not be vacated under the Eighth Amendment, given the availability of sentencing review under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act of 2016 (“IRAA”).

Napue Materiality

U.S. v. Nelson, 18-CO-53 (decided October 3, 2019) (false microscopic hair comparison testimony was material to appellant’s convictions related to an assault on his former landlord where it helped tie him to the murder that was the alleged motive for the assault)

Jones v. U.S., 15-CO-1104 (decided March 7, 2019) (false microscopic hair comparisontestimony was material to the outcome of appellant’s armed robbery trial, given high degree of certainty expressed regarding the comparison and the prosecutor’s reliance on that certainty in closing)

Read full synopses forNelsonandJonesin the expert testimony section of (Early) Year in Review (Part 2).