US v. Atalig, No. 06-10511 (9-6-07). A lie to the government does not have to be to the specific agency that has jurisdiction over the subject matter involving the lie? Got it. The defendant was put in charge of disaster relief when Super Typhoon Pongsuna slammed into Rota Island in the Mariana Islands. Disaster relief was forthcoming, and the defendant liberally construed relief, including false claims and false statements. The defendant tried to argue that the forms on which she made the false statements did not go to the agency in which that had jurisdiction over the disaster relief. Does not matter. In 1996, Congress amended the 1001 statute to remove the "particular jurisdiction" requirement, and the government does not bear the burden of having to prove a connection.
Polk v. Sandoval, No. 06-15735 (9-11-07). The 9th (B. Fletcher joined by Clifton and Ikuta) grant relief to a Nevada state petitioner doing two life sentences for premeditated murder for a defective jury instruction. Nevada require first degree murder to be "willful, premeditated, and deliberate." Only premeditation was defined. This lack of definition for deliberation was defective, relieving the state of its burden, and not harmless. The state supreme court itself recognized the defective nature of the instruction after petitioner's conviction but before briefing. The state supreme court sidestepped, reasoning that although the court had told the trial courts not to use the instruction because it was wrong, the error was not constitutional, and so no relief. The 9th would have none of that.
Congratulations to AFPD Lori Teicher of the D. Nevada (Las Vegas) for the win.
US v. Crews, No. 06-30414 (9-10-07). In an understatement, the 9th finds that "[W]hile this case is not a model of flawless procedure, it does demonstrate objective reasonableness." Let's see, the defendant was arrested for trying to elude the police, a gun was found blocks away. Defendant was released, but the police watched him and his girlfriend come and go from an apartment. This formed the basis of the probable cause that there was probably guns and ammunition in the apartment and other evidence of the crime of trying to elude the police. The 9th (Duffy joined by Hall and Smith) held that Leon's "good faith" exception applied here. The police could draw he dots between the gun found outside the car and possible guns in the apartment and connection between the defendants. The 9th also held that police were not misleading the court.
Fields v. Brown, No. 00-99005 (9-10-07) (en banc). Sitting en banc, the 9th (Rymer writing) upholds a death sentence even though a juror consulted the Bible as to the appropriateness of capital punishment, and took his notes into the jury room, where they were discussed and made part of the deliberations. The juror's actions were misconduct, but harmless. In so reasoning, the 9th permitted extrinsic evidence, selective reading of the Bible, and allowed religion to determine a verdict. Dissents by Gould (joined by McKeown and Wardlaw) and Berzon (joined by Reinhardt and Thomas) are aghast at the majority's "wistful thinking" about prejudice and is troubled at the prospect of permitting a "theocratic jury room." The 9th let its horror at the crimes blind it to the grave misconduct and the violation of due process.