Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mathurin: No 8th Amendment Violation for 685-Month Sentence Imposed on a Juvenile

In United States v. Mathurin, No. 14-12239 (Aug. 18, 2017) (Julie Carnes, Wilson, Hall), the Court affirmed the defendant's conviction and 685-month sentence for multiple armed robbery and carjacking crimes committed while a juvenile.

As to the conviction, the Court first rejected the defendant's various suppression challenges, finding that: 1) there was probable cause to support the defendant's arrest; 2) because the defendant was advised that no promises or negotiations would be made in a meeting, statements made during that meeting were not made in the course of plea negotiations and thus were not inadmissible under Rule 410; 3) inculpatory statements made by the defendant after his arrest were voluntary, even though there was a delay in notifying his mother of his arrest, the waiver form he signed did not indicate he had a right to attorney prior to questioning, and he was questioned alone after he was appointed an attorney; and 4) there was no basis to suppress eyewitness identifications because there was no evidence to show that the procedure was unduly suggestive.

Second, the Court found that the district court properly dismissed the defendant's original indictment without prejudice under the Speedy Trial Act, because the defendant's offenses were extremely serious, the government did not intentionally delay the filing of the indictment, and the defendant would suffer only minimal prejudice from the delay.

Third, the Court found that the second indictment was not barred by the statute of limitations.  By statute, where an indictment is dismissed after the statute of limitations expires, the government may return a new indictment within six months of the dismissal.  Here, the second indictment was filed ten days after the dismissal.

Fourth, the Court found no reversible evidentiary error by allowing the prosecution to fully recount the robberies, including the involvement of a firearm, even though the defendant was acquitted of accompanying 924(c) counts during an earlier trial.  The Double Jeopardy Clause did not prohibit probative evidence that is otherwise admissible simply because it is related to criminal conduct for which the defendant has been acquitted.  The Court also found that there was no reversible prosecutorial misconduct at closing.

As to the sentence, the Court rejected the argument that the defendant's 685-month sentence violated the Eight Amendment under Graham v. Florida.  In a lengthy analysis, the Court assumed that Graham did apply to a term-of-years sentence exceeding one's life span, but then concluded that, factoring in good time credit, the defendant had an actuarial life expectancy that would precede his possible release date, even using the lower life-expectancy for African American males.  Thus, there was a possibility of release before expiration of his sentence.

The Court also rejected the defendant's argument that the sentence was vindictive, imposed as punishment for successfully appealing his initial conviction (for which he received a 492 month sentence), in violation of North Carolina v. Pearce.  The Court emphasized that the re-sentencing occurred before a different judge, and therefore Pearce's presumption of vindictiveness did not apply, and the defendant could not show actual vindictiveness.

Judge Wilson issued a one-sentence concurring opinion: "I concur in the result."