March, 2023

Eighth Circuit: Defendant Was Entitled to Specific Performance of His Plea Agreement Under “No Further Prosecution” Clause

Defendant appealed his 2021 conviction for various sex-trafficking offenses arguing that the government was prohibited from prosecuting him based on a “No Further Prosecution” clause in a prior 2018 plea agreement that resolved heroin-related charges against him. The Eighth Circuit reversed for specific performance of the plea agreement holding that the sex trafficking charges against defendant arose from, or were directly related to, the drug trafficking investigation, within the meaning of the clause, where the same investigation that led to the heroin charges led to the sex-trafficking charges, the cases shared prosecutors, police officers, witnesses, subject matter, and cellphone searches, and subpoenaed records in the drug trafficking investigation gave rise to the later-identified alleged sex-trafficking victims and corroborated their accounts. United States v. Thomas, ___ F.4th ___ (CA 8, 01-24-23, WL 367559).

Second Circuit: District Court Abused Its Discretion When It Failed to Inquire Into Potential Jurors’ Gang-Related Bias

Defendant was convicted by jury of witness retaliation. The Second Circuit remanded for a new trial holding that the district court abused its discretion when it failed to sufficiently account for the risk of gang-related bias among prospective jurors where the government's theory of the case was that defendant had targeted a witness specifically because of his gang’s zero-tolerance policy towards gang members who cooperated with law enforcement, both defense counsel and the government requested gang-related questions, and the evidence in support of the government’s theory consisted of gang-member testimony and gang-related expert testimony, but the court did not ask about gang-related bias and instead asked only generic questions. The Court also found that the fact that the victim was himself a gang member did not excuse the district court from inquiring into potential jurors’ gang-related bias. United States v. Nieves, ___ F.4th ___ (CA 2, 01-26-23, WL 405354).

Seventh Circuit: District Court Erred When
It Denied Motion to Suppress Evidence Where Officers Entered Front Porch to Arrest Without a Warrant

Defendant entered a conditional plea to gun charges after his motion to suppress was denied. After an officer saw a Snapchat video defendant posted of himself grilling on his front porch with a gun in view, officers immediately went to defendant’s home and arrested him without a warrant. The Seventh Circuit reversed holding that a front porch—part of a home’s “curtilage”—receives the same protection as the home itself, so the officers’ entry was illegal without a warrant. The Court emphasized that, because defendant was a convicted felon, the officers needed nothing more than the video to request a warrant to arrest him and that warrants are easy to obtain. United States v. Banks, ___ F.4th ___ (CA 7 02-13-2023, WL 1956605).