Federal Defenders of New York Second Circuit Blog


Friday, June 24th, 2005

No Right of Confrontation at Sentencing

United States v. David Martinez, Docket No. 04-2075-cr (Sotomayor, Raggi, Hall) (Op. by Sotomayor): In a case of first impression in the Circuit, the Court rules that the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation does not apply to sentencing hearings, even in light of Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), and United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005). The Court thus rejected the defendant’s claim that his confrontation rights were violated when the district court relied on hearsay testimony introduced at a Fatico hearing to substantially increase his Guidelines sentencing range.

Unfortunately, Martinez is a short opinion that fails to address or account for the revolution wrought by the Apprendi line of cases. The decision makes no effort to, as Justice Stevens aptly put it in his Booker majority opinion, “preserve Sixth Amendment substance” in light of the realities of modern sentencing practice. 125 S. …

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Circuit Affirms Denial of Habeas Petition Based on Trial Court’s Bar on Attorney-Client Communication during Client’s Testimony

Serrano v. Fischer, Docket No. 03-2670 (2d Cir. June 20, 2005) (Winter, Sotomayor, and B.D. Parker) (Op. by Sotomayor): In this dismissal of a habeas petition, the Circuit narrowly held that, under the particular facts of the case, the state court decisions rejecting the petitioner’s deprivation-of-counsel claim were not contrary to or an unreasonable application of the governing Supreme Court precedent. Despite its narrowness, the opinion discusses an issue with broad implications for habeas petitions under the AEDPA deferential standard. The Court explained that where the governing Supreme Court precedent provides no bright-line rule but instead only a “roughly defined” one requiring a context-specific inquiry, it is less likely that the state court’s applications of that precedent will be considered unreasonable, and thus less likely that the writ will be granted under §2254(d)(1).

The essential facts are as follows. Serrano was tried and convicted in state court of second …

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Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

Some Great Dicta about the Limits of the Almendarez-Torres Exception

United States v. Weisser, Docket No. 01-1588 (2d Cir. June 20, 2005) (Walker, Cardamone, and Owen, D.J.) (Op. by Walker): In this otherwise ho-hum opinion in which the primary appellate issue concerns the defendant’s claim that he has been deprived of the right to appeal because much of the evidence presented against him at trial was destroyed during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, the Circuit makes a very interesting statement about the limit of the Almendarez-Torres exception to the ApprendiBlakely rule. The opinion is worth a quick perusal for that statement alone.

The essential facts are simple. Weisser lived in San Francisco and engaged in AOL chat sessions with someone claiming to be an 11-year-old boy in New York. The “boy” was of course an undercover agent fishing for customers (er, defendants). Much sexual conversation ensued, along with a planned liaison in a …

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Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Batson’s Back, Baby!

Walker v. Girdrich, Docket No. 03-2645 (June 8, 2005) (Jacobs, Calabresi (C.J.J.) and Rakoff (D.J.)), (Op.by Jacobs).

Presaging the United States Supreme Court’s Miller-El decision by just five days, the Court of Appeals here rejected a state prosecutor’s reason for striking single black prospective juror, and granted the petitioner’s writ.

Facts

Tried in the New York Supreme Court, Kings County, on drug charges, Robert Walker lodged a
Batson objection after the prosecutor used twelve of thirteen peremptory challenges to remove African-Americans from the venire, alleging that the strikes were the product of purposeful discrimination. The trial judge concluded that there was no ‘pattern’ of discrimination, but invited the prosecutor to give her reason for striking the juror in question, Bernard Jones, who had not yet been discharged. The prosecutor indicated, inter alia, that Mr. Jones “gave one word answers” and was concerned about missing work, but noted that her “main …

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Friday, June 17th, 2005

Elderly Defendant Not Permitted to Withdraw Plea Despite Poor Advice from Attorney about Guidelines Exposure

United States v. Anthony Guidice, Docket No. 04-3729-cr (2d Cir. June 16, 2005) (Feinberg, Sack, Katzmann) (Op. by Feinberg): The Circuit sets a very high hurdle in this case for defendants wishing to withdraw their guilty pleas based on grossly erroneous advice from counsel about their sentencing exposure. Although the Court does not create any per se rules in this decision, it relies heavily on the fact that the defendant could not point to any “weaknesses” in the Government’s case against him to conclude that, despite counsel’s admittedly awful advice, there is no reasonably probability that defendant would have proceeded to trial if he had been given correct information about his sentencing exposure (despite his claims to the contrary). Unfortunately, many defendants will be unable to make such a showing.

The essential facts are simple. Guidice was charged in a 4-count indictment with extortion-related offenses. Shortly before trial, he …

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Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Criminal Forfeiture Not Governed by Requirements of Apprendi / Blakely Line of Cases

United States v. Fruchter, Docket No. 02-1422(L) (2d Cir. June 14, 2005) (Walker, Parker, and Wesley) (Op. by Walker): The Circuit concludes in this opinion that in determining the amount subject to forfeiture under the RICO criminal forfeiture statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1963, a judge need only rely upon the preponderance of the evidence standard. The Court specifically rejected appellant’s argument that under Apprendi, Blakely, and Booker, the district court was required to determine the forfeiture amount under the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. This was so because criminal forfeiture “is not a determinative scheme” (emphasis in original) — like the Washington state regime invalidated in Blakely or the Sentencing Guidelines invalidated in Booker — wherein a guilty verdict (or a guilty plea) “authorizes the imposition of a sentence within a specified [or determinate] range.” Op. at 14. Rather, “criminal forfeiture is not subject to any statutory maximum,” op. …

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Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Drug Use Resulting in Revocation Can Be Premised, In Part, on Results Falling Below Cutoffs Established In Testing Companies’ Contracts

United States v. Klimek, Docket No. 04-2459 (2d Cir. June 8, 2005) (Meskill, Newman, Cabranes) (Op. by Newman): In this case, briefed and argued by our own David Lewis, the Circuit ruled that, in the context of a supervised release revocation proceeding, a district court was not “per se precluded” from relying upon confirmatory drug test results that fall below the cutoff established by contracts between an outside testing company and the Adminstrative Officer of the United States Courts (“AO”).

The facts are straigtforward. Mr. Klimek, after serving a prison sentence but while still on supervised release, used drugs. Initially, he admitted using LSD, pled guilty to violating the terms of his supervised release for that reason, and was sentenced to a term of home confinement. But even before home confinement could be set up, he tested positive again, this time for cocaine use. He denied using cocaine, so his …

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Thursday, June 9th, 2005

New York Court of Appeals Upholds Persistent Felony Offender Law Despite Ring, Blakely, and Booker

People v. Rivera (June 9, 2005) (Op. by Rosenblatt): This Blog normally confines itself to Second Circuit decisions, but since we commented yesterday on the Second Circuit’s narrow decision upholding New York’s persistent felony offender statute on AEDPA review, see Brown v. Greiner, below, we thought it appropriate in the interest of completeness to discuss the New York Court of Appeals’s decision, rendered today, upholding that law on direct review. (Our prediction of a contrary result was, alas, misguided). In Rivera, that Court ruled that N.Y. Penal Law § 70.10 did not violate either Apprendi, Ring, Blakely, or Booker. Of course, it did so only by interpreting the statue in a way that (1) flatly contradicts the plain language of the law itself, and (2) flouts years of case law and accepted practice in the New York courts.

Simply put, the Court upholds the …

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Wednesday, June 8th, 2005

A Very Narrow Decision on New York’s Persistent Felony Offender Law

Brown v. Greiner, Docket No. 03-2242(L) (2d Cir. June 3, 2005) (Walker, Leval, and Katzmann) (Op. by Leval): Too much has been made of this exceedingly narrow decision in the press (see, e.g., yesterday’s front page article in the New York Law Journal) and in the blogsphere (see, e.g., Professor Berman’s description of it as a “major habeas ruling”). Contrary to some accounts, this decision did not rule that New York’s persistent felony offender law comports with the Sixth Amendment as construed in the line of cases beginning with Apprendi (2000), running through Ring (2002) and Blakely (2004), and concluding (at least for now) with Booker (2005). Rather, this case holds merely that the New York courts’ determinations in 2000 and 2001 – when only Apprendi had been decided – that this law did not violate the Sixth Amendment was not an “unreasonable” reading of …

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Monday, May 30th, 2005

Circuit Grants Habeas Based on Trial Court’s Refusal to Admit Exculpatory Testimony of a Defense Witness from a Previous Trial

Christie v. Hollins, Docket No. 03-2878 (2d Cir. May 27, 2005) (Newman, Pooler, Katzmann) (Op. by Newman): A fabulous week for habeas petitioners: This is the second time in one week that the Circuit has reversed a district court’s denial of habeas and granted the writ. See Henry v. Poole, below. Here, Judge Newman concludes that the trial court’s refusal to allow the defense to introduce a witness’s exculpatory testimony from the defendant’s first trial (at which the jury acquitted the defendant of the two more serious counts, and hung on the third count), despite the defendant’s herculean efforts to ensure the presence of the witness at the second trial, violated the defendant’s right to present a defense at trial. This was so even applying AEDPA deference: The state courts’ determination that (1) the defense had not made diligent efforts to securethe witness’s presence at trial, and (2) …

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Circuit Excises Section 3553(b)(2) in Light of Booker, and Will Review Departure Decisions under Abuse of Discretion Standard

United States v. Selioutsky, Docket No. 04-2740 , (2d Cir. May 27, 2005) (Newman, Wesley, Hall) (Op. by Newman): This is yet another opinion by Judge Newman fleshing out some important details of the post-Booker sentencing (and appellate) world left unresolved by Booker itself. In this case, the Circuit (1) excises Section 3553(b)(2), which required mandatory application of the Guidelines, except for a few very narrow departure grounds, in child pornography and other sex offense cases; and (2) holds that it will review departure decisions by district courts under the pre-PROTECT Act standard of review — abuse of discretion. Additionally, the Court clarifies that although Booker implements a general standard of reasonableness in evaluating the propriety of a sentence on appeal, the Court will review legal questions leading to the imposition of that sentence de novo, questions of fact under the clearly erroneous standard, and mixed questions …

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