Archive | findings

Monday, March 12th, 2018

De Novo Review of Demeanor?

Last week, the Second Circuit reversed a decision suppressing a defendant’s incriminating, videotaped statements to a DEA agent in a case involving Fentanyl distribution resulting in death. See United States v. Haak, No. 16-3876 (Raggi, Hall, Carney) (appeal from WDNY), opinion available here. The substance of the decision is fact-specific and favors the government.  Interestingly, however, the Court’s approach to reviewing the videotaped interview could be advantageous to defendants in future cases.

Of course, when assessing whether a defendant’s statements to a law enforcement agent were voluntary, appellate courts typically defer to the district court’s assessment of the agent’s demeanor. Here, the panel accorded no such deference. Instead, without citing legal authority for the proposition, the panel categorically asserted that: “Because the . . . interview was video-recorded, this case presents no disputes of fact as to the actions taken, words spoken, or demeanor.”  Slip op. …

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Categories: custody, Fifth Amendment, findings

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Saturday, October 6th, 2007


United States v. Villafuerte, Docket No. 06-1292-cr (2d Cir. September 21, 2007) (Walker, Cabranes, CJJ, Goldberg, DJ)

United States v. Hirlman, Docket No. 05-3677 -cr (2d Cir. September 27, 2007) (Winter, Walker, Sack, CJJ)

These two cases, although not related, together provide new insights into an extremely important area – the need to preserve sentencing issues for appeal.

Villafuerte is a very disturbing case. For nearly two decades, the conventional wisdom in the Second Circuit has been that appellate claims relating to the procedural aspects of sentencing – e.g., whether the court understood its departure authority, made adequate legal findings in support of an enhancement, or gave the defendant an opportunity to allocute – would be reviewed on appeal, even where there was no specific objection pointing out the procedural failing.

Villafuerte changes all that. In this case, the Circuit holds that the most common post-Booker claims about procedural unreasonableness …

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Categories: findings, notice, objection, plain error, preservation, Rule 52, Uncategorized

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