Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Harrison: "First-sale" Defense does not apply to 2318 prosecutions

In U.S. v. Harrison, No. 07-13808 (July 16, 2008), the Court held that the "first-sale" doctrine, which limits copyright holder rights, is not a defense to a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 2318 for unauthorized sales of Microsoft authenticating labels, which enabled purchasers to activate pirated copies of Microsoft’s programs.
The Court pointed out that Harrison was not charged with copyright infringement. Further, Congress did not incorporate the "first-sale" doctrine into § 2318. The Court noted that allowing a "first-sale" defense would effectively eliminate restrictions on secondary markets, when Congress’ purpose was to intend to eliminate secondary markets.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lamons: Flight Attendant Arsonist Gets 271 months

In U.S. v. Lamons, No. 06-14427 (July 5, 2008), the Court affirmed convictions of an airline flight attendant for setting a fire to an airplane while in flight. The Court also affirmed a 271 months’ sentence.
The Court rejected the argument that the prosecution violated the Confrontation Clause when it introduced in evidence a compact disc of data collected from telephone calls. The Court held that no Confrontation Clause violation could occur when this type of evidence is admitted, because it is generated by a machine, not a human being who can be called as a witness and confronted. Challenges to the reliability of this type of evidence must arise under the authentication requirements of the Rules of Evidence.
The Court also rejected Lamons’ claim that the trial court violated Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) when it admitted evidence of a prior incident, for which Lamons was also convicted, in which he made a phone call, just before the departure of a flight, falsely warning that everyone on the flight "was going to die." The Court noted that this prior conviction resembled the fire-setting crime, in that both were committed by Lamons in his capacity as a flight attendant, and designed to target commercial aviation.
Finally, the Court rejected Lamons’ challenge to being sentenced on the basis of a "endangering the safety of . . . an aircraft." The Court found that the fire Lamons set partially burned and melted an HVAC hose, and that a fire is, as the pilot of the airplane testified, "one of the worse [sic] things that can happen on an aircraft."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Richardson: Single Conspiracy, not multiple

In U.S. v. Richardson, No. 06-12610 (July 3, 2008), the Court rejected the defendant’s contention that his various illegal agreements with several drug coconspirators constituted not one but multiple conspiracies.
Richardson claimed that the evidence showed unconnected drug conspiracies, not the single conspiracy charged in the indictment.
The Court rejected the argument that a variance occurred, finding that the jury reasonably could have found the existence of an underlying scheme to buy cocaine for relatively low prices in Miami and sell it for relatively high prices in Atlanta, thereby turning a profit.
Further, even if the jury could not have so concluded, the variance would not have engendered substantial prejudice, and thus would not require reversal. The government would not have been precluded from introducing any evidence. In addition, this was not a situation where a defendant on the periphery of one conspiracy was prejudiced by the admission into evidence of separate unrelated conspiracies; Richardson "was the hub."
The Court denied Richardson’s challenges to the failure to give the jury a "multiple conspiracies" instruction. The Court noted that this was not a case where several defendants were tried together for their varying degrees of participation in a single conspiracy. Multiple conspiracy instructions are not typically given in single-defendant cases. Moreover, the instruction that was given adequately informed the jury that it had to find Richardson joined in the charged conspiracy.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Peterka: Counsel Not Ineffective

In Peterka v. McNeil, No. 07-12363 (July 2, 2008), the Court affirmed the denial of Florida death row inmate’s habeas petition.
Peterka was convicted of a 1989 murder, and sentenced to death. He claimed that his counsel was ineffective for failing to put on evidence at the mitigation phase regarding his service in the National Guard, and his exemplary conduct in jail. The Court denied relief, finding that counsel made a strategic decision not to pursue the National Guard service out of concern that Peterka’s dismissal from the guard on account of his prior theft crime would surface. Further, the prison record showed that Peterka was "little better" than the average inmate.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Smith: Stolen gun and Felon in Possession are different offenses for Double Jeopardy

In U.S. v. Smith, No. 07-13202 (June 30, 2008), the Court rejected the argument that Double Jeopardy bars the government from simultaneously prosecuting and sentencing a defendant for possessing stolen firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j), and for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).
The Court rejected the government’s argument that the defendant had waived his Double Jeopardy challenge when he pled guilty to both charges. The Court explained that although generally a guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional challenges to a conviction, one exception to this rule exists when the claim is that the charge is one which may not constitutionally be prosecuted – as when the charge violates Double Jeopardy. Thus, the Court turned to the question of whether the prosecution was valid.
Applying the Blockburger test, which examines whether each offense requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not, the Court concluded that no Double Jeopardy violation occurred. Proving that a defendant was a convicted felon, and proving that he knew the gun was stolen, are different.