Monday, July 10, 2017

1.  US v. Padilla-Diaz, No. 15-30279 (7-5-17)(Fletcher w/McKeown & Fisher).  The 9th rejects three challenges to the amendment that lowered the drug guidelines by two levels, but stated that the reduced sentence could not be lower than the minimum guideline range.  The first challenge argues that the retroactive authority conflicts with the purposes authority.  The defendant states this had the effect of converging sentences toward the minimum sentence rather than an individualized determination.  The 9th granted that the argument had some appeal, but reconciled the two statutory provisions by one being a general mission directive and the other being specific for retroactivity and limited in scope.  The second challenge is equal protection: the 9th finds that the retroactive policy is not irrational.  The government has two rational bases for the policies--simplicity and to promote cooperation with the government.  Those two do the trick.  Lastly, two defendants raise a due process challenge as their plea agreements reserve the right to seek further reductions for future retroactive amendments.  The 9th reasoned that the amendment came after the plea was entered into, and was not a retroactive deprivation.  The reduction itself was limited.

The decision is here:

2.  Petrocelli v. Baker, No. 14-99006 (7-5-17)(Fletcher w/Friedland; concurrence by Christen).  The 9th affirmed denial of a petition contesting a conviction for first degree murder.  The 9th granted capital sentencing relief, finding that the State had committed Estelle error -- the State prosecutor used a psychiatrist as an expert to evaluate the petitioner for competency and the psychiatrist had (1) failed to give Miranda warnings; (2) notify defense counsel; and (3) testified at sentencing as to future dangerousness. The 9th also found that the State had waived any defense to the admission.  Concurring, Christen would find that the prosecutor had engaged in egregious misconduct, and so under Brecht (fn 9), prejudice need not be shown as the integrity of the process was compromised.

As to the merits, the 9th found that petitioner had failed to invoke his Miranda rights by his unambiguous statements in one interrogation.  Two subsequent interrogations resulting in statements were only used for impeachment, and were not involuntary.

The decision is here:


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