Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kilgore: Hall IQ holding does not apply retroactively

In Kilgore v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corr., No. 13-11825 (Nov. 16, 2015), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida death-row inmate who claimed that he was intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty for his 1989 murder. In Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the Supreme Court held that the execution of the intellectually disabled violates the Eighth Amendment. In Hall v. Florida (2014), the Supreme Court held that an individual with an IQ test score between 70 and 75 or lower may present additional evidence of difficulties in adaptive functioning. Kilgore had IQ socres of 74, 75 and 76. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed his execution because the Florida IQ cutoff, pre-Hall, was 70. Kilgore claimed that he should have gotten the benefit of Hall, retroactively. The Court rejected this argument, finding that it squarely held in In re Henry that Hall merely created new procedures for ensuring that states follow the rule enunciated in Atkins. The Court rejected the argument that the actual holding of In re Henry was limited to its finding that Henry’s IQ was 78, which put Henry outside the protection of Hall. This was an alternative holding, and both alternative holdings are binding precedent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Azmat: Affirming convictions of physican who prescribed drugs for "pill mill"

In U.S. v. Azmat, No. 14-13703 (Nov. 10, 2015), the Court affirmed convictions for unlawful dispensation of controlled substances, and conspiracy to money launder, of a physician who wrote prescriptions for Oxycodone to “patients” of a “pill mill.” The Court rejected Azmat’s argument that writing prescriptions did not qualify as “dispensing” drugs, citing contrary precedent, and the language of the drug trafficking statute. The Court also rejected Azmat’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. As to the drug trafficking counts, the Court noted that “the patients looked like addicts or ‘zombies.’” As to the money laundering count, which charged the use of the proceeds from unlawfully dispensing controlled substances to promote the pill mill’s illegal activities, the Court noted that the patients paid for the drugs in cash, and the defendants used this cash to operate the illegal “clinic.” The Court also rejected Azmat’s Daubert challenge to the testimony of a government expert that Azmat’s prescribed controlled substances were “not medically legitimate.” The Court noted that the doctor’s expert testimony relied on published sources generally accepted by the medical community in defining the applicable standard of care. Turning to sentencing, the Court found no error in the district court’s calculation of drug quantity, which held Azmat accountable for all of the drugs he prescribed, noting the expert testimony that he did no prescribe any of the pills for a legitimate medical purpose. Finally, the Court rejected Azmat’s claim that his sentence created an unwarranted disparity in relation to the shorter sentences imposed on his accomplices, pointing out that the accomplices pled guilty, and that he was convicted of more crimes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Toll: Accountant opinion testimony proper

In U.S. v. Toll, No. 13-14540 (Nov. 3, 2015), the Court affirmed fraud convictions arising out of a scheme to use a separate set of accounting statements to inflate a company’s value. The Court rejected the argument that the district court abused its discretion in allowing the company’s controller, who testified for the government, about whether he believed, when he created them, that the financial statements complied with accounting principles. Toll argued that the controller was not qualified as an expert witness. Even if some of the testimony was opinion testimony, it was admissible because it was based on the controller’s personal experience. The Court also rejected the challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court found that there was evidence that Toll knew that an accomplice was misrepresenting the financial strength of the company, and knew the other facts that were the basis for his multiple convictions.