Monday, June 5, 2017

Supreme Court Updates

Supreme Court Continues to Extend "Vagueness" Doctrine; Appellate Updates


            The U.S. Supreme Court this morning again extended the breadth of Johnson vagueness doctrine by extending it to three cases where defendants received career-offender status for what amounted to consensual sexual relations with barely-underage minors. The original 2017 SC holding, Esquival-Quintana v. Sessions, which rejected the application of such incidents involving minors 16 and over, was a convincing 8-0 decision. Three cases from the Fifth and Sixth Circuits, were summarily vacated and remanded for resentencing.

            We are also following and considering the application of an interesting case out of Oklahoma, U.S. v Jeffrey Dan Williams, 97cr171,brought to our attention by one of our readers. In this case, compelling new evidence casting doubt upon the veracity of law enforcement and CI testimony against Williams brought about the granting of a second-successive 2255. Williams, who did not dispute his guilt in a drug case he said involved 37 grams but always contested the amplification of his drug quantity that resulted in a 35-year sentence, argued that U.S. v. Blackwell, 127 F.3d 947, and its progeny applied to redress unfairly obtained indictments and guilty, resulting fundamental miscarriages of justice that amounted to fraud upon the court. We are currently reviewing several of our cases to apply the reasoning of this case.

            In his decision vacating the judgment and sentence and dismissing the indictments, Judge James H. Payne noted that "the court finds it has the inherent power and jurisdiction to grant relief." and that the fraud upon the court harmed the "integrity of the judicial process."

            This follows on the heels of the scandal in Kansas City, Kansas federal court, involving the  admitted recording of confidential communications between unconvicted defendants and their attorneys, that has now resulted in the resignation (or dismissal) of two assistant federal prosecutors caught up in the scheme.

            In the circuits, the Ninth Circuit ruled that there is no right to file a 2255 alleging ineffective assistance of counsel in a Section 3582(c)(2) sentence reduction matter, since the Supreme Court ruled in the Dillon case that such proceedings did not constitute a sentence reduction. Sherrod v. U.S., 16-72178, (9th Cir., May 24, 2017).