Archive | Sixth Amendment

Friday, May 1st, 2020

Pop off, G-Unit

In a murder-for-hire trial, is it constitutional for a defense attorney to concede—over his client’s objection—that the client hired someone to shoot at the victim (an element of the offense), but argue that the client did not intend for the victim to die?

This may seem like a strange strategic choice, but it starts to make more sense in context. On May 1, 2020, in United States v. James Rosemond, No. 18-3561, the Second Circuit takes a foray into the world of hip hop while considering a defendant’s Sixth Amendment autonomy rights.

Rosemond, aka “Jimmy Henchman,” was a manager and music executive whose Czar Entertainment managed, among others, The Game, Brandy, Gucci Mane, and Salt-n-Pepa. Czar had a rivalry with Violator Records, whose offices were located across the street. Violence ensued. Per the Second Circuit,

The rivalry intensified in February 2005. At that time, Czar represented rapper Jayceon Taylor,

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Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

NACDL Report on the Trial Penalty

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) recently released a report that is somewhat provocatively, but fairly, titled: The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It.  The report, available here, offers a succinct assessment of the legal and institutional pressures that coerce 97% of state and federal defendants into plea bargains.

From the Executive Summary:

[O]ver the last fifty years, trial by jury has declined at an ever-increasing rate to the point that this institution now occurs in less than 3% of state and federal criminal cases. Trial by jury has been replaced by a “system of [guilty] pleas”3 which diminishes, to the point of obscurity, the role that the Framers envisioned for jury trials as the primary protection for individual liberties and the principal mechanism for public participation in the criminal justice system.

Guilty pleas

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Categories: guilty plea, Sixth Amendment

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Monday, April 4th, 2016

Supreme Court: Sex Offender Who Leaves U.S. For Foreign Country Not Required To Update His Registration In U.S.

There were no Circuit opinions or summary orders today.

The Supreme Court decided Nichols v. United States, No. 15–5238. A unanimous Court, per Justice Alito, held that a sex offender residing in Kansas who moved to the Philippines could not be prosecuted under SORNA for failing to update his registration in Kansas after the move.

In Woods v. Etherton, No. 15–723, the Court summarily reversed the Sixth Circuit’s grant of habeas relief on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

And the Court granted certiorari in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, No. 15–606, where the question presented is: “Whether a no-impeachment rule constitutionally may bar evidence of racial bias offered to prove a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury.”

I’ll be back with a more detailed recap later today.…

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Categories: sex offenses, Sixth Amendment

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Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Supreme Court: Pretrial Restraint of Untainted Assets Needed to Hire a Lawyer is Unconstitutional


No opinions or relevant summary orders from the Second Circuit today.

Operating with only 8 justices, a fractured Supreme Court today decided Luis v. United States.  The Court’s holding is that “pretrial restraint of legitimate, untainted assets needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment.”

Justice Breyer’s plurality opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, explains that 18 U.S.C. § 1345 generally authorizes the government to freeze the assets of people accused of federal banking or health-care crimes.  Specifically, § 1345(a)(2)(B)(i) authorizes the pretrial restraint of “property of equivalent value,” meaning property that is neither “obtained as a result of” nor “traceable to” the alleged crime.

This license to freeze “property that is untainted by the crime, and that belongs fully to the defendant,” violates the Sixth Amendment if such funds (in Luis’s case, some $2 million) are needed to hire counsel of …

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Categories: forfeiture, right to counsel, Sixth Amendment

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Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Penalty Blocks

United States v. Jacques, No. 11-2142-cr (2d Cir. July 9, 2012) (Winter, Chin, Droney, CJJ)

In this capital case, the district court entered an order excluding some evidence that the government intended to offer at the penalty phase. On this, the government’s interlocutory appeal, the circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part.


Michael Jacques was charged with the kidnaping, rape and murder of a young girl. In the death notice, the government included aggravating factors that it would seek to prove at the penalty phase: allegations of prior rapes, and an attempt to obstruct justice by influencing the testimony of a victim/witness. The district court permitted evidence of two of the prior rapes – one of a juvenile and one of an adult – but struck three of the prior rape allegations, all of which involved juveniles (J2, J3 and J4), finding that the conduct was …

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Categories: death penalty, Sixth Amendment, Uncategorized

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Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Tamper Proof

United States v. Simels, No. 09-5117-cr (2d Cir. August 12, 2011) (Newman, Calabresi, Hall, CJJ)

Former defense attorney Robert Simels appealed his conviction, after a jury trial, of various counts relating to a witness-tampering scheme, and his fourteen-year sentence. The circuit dismissed two minor counts as insufficient but otherwise affirmed.

The case arose from Simels’ representation of one Shaheed Khan, a Guyanese narcotics trafficker, who was detained at the MCC. The case against Simels had three main components. First, he lied to prison officials in an effort to speak to another prisoner, David Clarke, whom he believed to be a witness against Khan, by saying he was Clarke’s attorney. Second, an associate of Khan’s, Selwyn Vaughn, had several conversations with Simels, in which Simels discussed bribing and threatening potential witnesses against Khan. Vaughn had approached the DEA when he learned that Simels was reaching out to him, and wore a …

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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Object Permanence

United States v. Marte Robles, No. 07-1013-cr (2d Cir. April 9, 2009)(Straub, Hall, CJJ, Eaton, DJ)(per curiam)

In this case, the court was called upon to construe Application Note 4 to U.S.S.G. § 1B1.2. Section 1B1.2(d) provides that a “conviction on a count charging a conspiracy to commit more than one offense shall be treated as if the defendant had been convicted on a separate count of conspiracy for each offense that the defendant conspired to commit.” The application note advises that “[p]articular care must be taken” when applying this subsection because there are cases where “the verdict or plea does not establish” which offenses were “the object of the conspiracy. In such cases, [subsection(d)] should only be applied with respect to an object offense alleged in the conspiracy count” if the court, were it sitting as the trier of fact, “would convict the defendant of conspiring to commit that …

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Categories: conspracy, Sixth Amendment, Uncategorized

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Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Gimme Shelter

United States v. Stein, no. 07-3042-cr (2d Cir. August 28, 2008) (Jacobs, Feinberg, Hall, CJJ)

This case arose from a 2004 investigation into KPMG’s suspected creation and sale of illegal tax shelters. Although KPMG’s counsel recommended a “cooperative approach” in its dealings with the government, the firm still, initially, promised to pay the attorneys’ fees of any current or former member of the firm who was under investigation.

In subsequent meetings with Southern District prosecutors, however, the government started putting pressure on KPMG to not pay attorneys’ fees. It cited the “Thompson Memorandum,” a directive to federal prosecutors intended to give guidance on when to prosecute business organizations, which instructs prosecutors to consider whether the firm was protecting culpable employees through, inter alia, “the advancing of attorneys fees.” Bowing to this pressure, KPMG’s counsel told the government that it would not pay the fees of employees who failed to “cooperate” …

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Categories: government misconduct, Sixth Amendment, Uncategorized

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Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Role of Certs

This pair of decisions, both arising from 2255 motions, gives helpful guidance on counsel’s obligations to file a petition for a writ of certiorari.

In Pena v. United States, No. 06-0218-pr (2d Cir. June 12, 2008) (Jacobs, Parker, Wesley, CJJ)(per curiam), the court held that a retained attorney was not ineffective for failing to advise his client of the right to seek certiorari. While the Sixth Amendment right to counsel covers a first-tier appeal, there is no constitutional right to counsel beyond that. Seeking certiorari is the first step in the non-Sixth Amendment discretionary appeal, and not the last step in the first-tier appeal. Accordingly, Pena’s counsel was not ineffective in failing to inform him of his right to seek certiorari.

The court noted that the Criminal Justice Act imposes greater obligations on appointed counsel. But since Pena’s counsel was retained, that statute did not apply. That said, the court …

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Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Venue Wish Upon A Star

United States v. Rommy, No. 06-0520 (2d Cir. November 6, 2007) (Jacobs, Walker, Raggi, CJJ).

Henk Rommy, a Dutch national, was tried in this district on charges that he managed a vast ecstasy importation scheme from Europe. The scheme’s ties to this district were quite thin – although the goal was to get the drugs to New York, only five things actually occurred here: a call from a cooperating witness in Manhattan to Rommy in the Netherlands; a second call between Rommy and the New York informant about one year later, although there was a dispute as to who initiated it; a call to a local FBI agent from Rommy and the informant, both in Europe, although there was a dispute as to whether Rommy or the informant placed the call; and, finally, two calls from the agent in Manhattan to Rommy in Europe.

At trial, Rommy claimed lack of …

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Categories: manufactured venue, Miranda, MLAT, Sixth Amendment, Uncategorized, venue

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Friday, September 28th, 2007

Crawford’s Eleven

United States v. Becker, Docket No. 06-1274-cr (2d Cir. September 13, 2007) (Calabresi, Parker, Wesley, CJJ)

At Becker’s stock fraud trial, the government introduced into evidence the plea allocutions of eleven (yes, eleven) of his co-defendants, supposedly for the “limited purpose” of establishing that the conspiracy charged in the indictment existed. The Circuit concluded that this was a Confrontation Clause violation under Crawford and, for the first time, found that such a violation was not harmless.

The court rejected the government’s claim that the district court’s limiting instructions cured the error, finding that the sheer number of allocutions and their repetitive nature suggested that the conspiracy was widespread, “making it plausible for the jury to assume that Becker was a participant simply by association with” the other conspirators, despite the instructions. In addition, the content of the allocutions was “far reaching and detailed” and significantly undermined Becker’s defense that his …

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Categories: 2255, Confrontation Clause, Crawford, harmless error, law of the case, plea allocution, Sixth Amendment, Teague, Uncategorized

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