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In many jurisdictions, jurors receive pretrial questionnaires that let parties and attorneys get to know them.  But what happens when a juror forgets or lies in response to some of the questions and the inaccurate responses are discovered after trial?  That was the question for the First Circuit in United States v. French.

Malcolm French owned approximately 80,000 acres of land in Washington County, Maine.  Rodney Russell was an office manager of sorts.  It turns out people were using pieces of Mr. French’s land to grow considerable amounts of marijuana.  Mr. French and Mr. Russell both claimed they didn’t know about the farming operation and were thus innocent.  A jury disagreed and found them both guilty.

Shortly after sentencing, defense counsel reported that they had just learned that a prisoner housed in the Somerset County Jail with another co-defendant told the co-defendant that Juror 86, who sat on the jury before which the case was tried, was the mother of a small-time marijuana trafficker.

Michael Brownlee is board-certified as an appellate expert by the Florida Bar.  He practices in federal appellate courts around the country and is the founding member of The Brownlee Law Firm.  To learn more visit appealattorney.com or email Mike at mbrownlee@brownleelawfirmpa.com.

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United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, — F.3d —, 2017 WL 2346995 (9th Cir. May 31, 2017): Shackling of defendant in pretrial proceedings must be justified by individualized finding of compelling need

Harry Hunks: ‘Tis vile to be a baited bear, my friend/I’ faith it seems our woes shall never end.

Sackerson: We suffer not alone, my ursine pal/Think of those poor folks in the S.D. Cal.

Harry Hunks: Wait – what?

What is stranger, do you suppose: the fact that the first people ever to see Shakespeare’s plays also got a kick out of seeing a bear on a chain being whipped – or the fact that in certain high-volume federal districts, the spectacle of presumed-innocent defendants being paraded in and out of courtrooms in five-point restraints once became so perfectly routine that judges failed to exercise any meaningful discretion as to its appropriateness, even when challenged?

The question is moot: The former is a matter for historians of Elizabethan England, and the latter has just been addressed by a remarkable en banc decision from the Ninth Circuit. Continue reading →

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There have not been many decisions from the D.C. Circuit in recent months – criminal or otherwise. But a rare reversal in an unusual coram nobis proceeding is worth mentioning as we swing into those grey winter months.

In an opinion remarkable for its turnaround – announced only 45 days after oral argument – the Circuit concluded that Kerry Newman, a permanent resident alien since 1980, had established one viable ground on which to claim that his defense counsel might have rendered ineffective assistance by providing erroneous advice at sentencing about the potential consequences of a guilty plea to a felony offense. United States v. Newman, _ F.3d _, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 1988 (D.C. Cir., Oct. 2, 2015).

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Gentle readers,

As you know, we’ve had precious little content here at the Federal Criminal Appeals Blog. So, starting this week, we’re trying something new – having other folks write posts.

Please let us know how we’re doing with this. Feel free to send me an email with feedback. Please let me know what you think. And you’ll see bio information for the authors who are writing here – feel free to reach out to them as well.

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This blog used to be great. It was a useful tool for those of us in the trenches of defending people accused of crimes in federal court.

Alas – my workload has been such that the blog has slipped as a priority. (Also I’ve been writing over at Above the Law).

For that reason, and at the suggestion of a former reader, I’m asking for help.

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Due to various case and vacation related reasons, there will be no short wins today.

But, fear not – if you really want to read stuff written by me about federal criminal law, you can read my editorial in Sunday’s Baltimore Sun here about Eric Holder’s proposals to reduce the prison population.

Here’s the punchline:

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I’m grateful that the ABA Law Journal has, again, decided this is one of the 100 best law-related blogs in the country.

That’s right, your very own Federal Criminal Appeals Blog is on the 2012 ABA 100 list.

Here’s what the ABA Law Journal said about the blog:

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Last year, the friendly folks at the ABA Law Journal decided that this was one of the best 100 law-related blogs out there in 2011. I’m grateful and mildly worried about their judgment.

You, on the other hand, are here reading this blog. Which makes me think that you might like it.

If that’s true, then first, thanks very much.

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Gentle readers,

I hope this finds you well. I wanted to raise two things with you.

First, as you’ll likely have noticed, I haven’t been too active here since June (in the sense that I haven’t been active here at all). I gave myself a bit of a summer vacation that lasted longer than I’d originally planned.