Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pooler: No ineffectiveness of counsel

In Pooler v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 12-12059 (Dec. 17, 2012), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1995 murder.

The Court rejected the argument that defense counsel was ineffective during the penalty phase of the case by failing to locate records that would show Pooler’s background. The Court noted the efforts counsel made, and the justifiable reliance on the information Pooler himself furnished.

The Court also found no ineffective assistance in counsel’s reliance on only two mental health experts, or the failure to highlight Pooler’s alcohol use on the day of the murder, which “may not have been mitigating in the jury’s eyes, and may well have opened the door not only to evidence of Pooler’s cavorting with a prostitute hours before he brutally killed his ex-girlfriend, but also to the abundant evidence of Pooler’s bad temper and propensity to violence when he was drunk.”

The Court also rejected Pooler’s attempt to rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in Porter v. McCollum, finding the ineffectiveness of counsel in that case distinguishable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thompson: Restoration of right to vote not sufficient for possession of firearm

In U.S. v. Thompson, No. 11-15122 (December 11, 2012), the Court held that although a defendant’s right to vote had been restored following an earlier Alabama assault conviction, this did not mean his civil rights had been restored for purposes of exempting him from being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

The Court pointed out that the statute refers to the restoration of civil rights, in the plural. Only Thompson’s right to vote was restored. His right to serve on a jury, and to hold public office, were not restored.

The Court rejected the argument that “voting rights” encompasses several attendant rights, including the right to vote in federal elections, and state elections, and primaries. “[T]he fact remains that Thompson had only one of the three key civil rights restored: the right to vote.”

Laist: 25-day computer seizure not unreasonable

In U.S. v. Laist, No. 11-15531 (Dec. 11, 2012), the Court held that a government 25-day delay in submitting an application for a search warrant while holding a computer based on probable cause was not an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

The Court first rejected the argument that the six days during which the search warrant application was submitted to and under consideration by a federal magistrate judge should be counted, in addition the preceding 25 days, in determining the unreasonableness of the delay. The Court distinguished the deterrent effect of the exclusionary rule on law enforcement agents from its effect on magistrate judges.

Turning to the 25-day delay, the Court emphasized that the defendant had a “diminished” possessory interest his computer, because he had an opportunity, when the computers were seized, to copy or remove personal documents. Moreover, the defendant admitted to the presence of illicit child pornography images on his computer.

The Court also found that the FBI Agent promptly started preparing the search affidavit once it was needed, and included “very substantial amount information” as to the defendant’s conduct in pages 14-17 of the affidavit. The Court noted that the investigation of the case took roughly a year, and that the Agent worked in a two-person office that covered ten Georgia counties. “The government’s efforts here were sufficiently diligent to pass muster under the Fourth Amendment.” The Court distinguished U.S. v. Mitchell, in which the Court had found a 21-day delay to be unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, finding the facts “readily distinguishable” – and pointing to Laist’s “diminished personal interest in his computer.”