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August 6, 2007

Interesting justification ruling from the Fourth Circuit

How Appealing notes this interesting ruling from the Fourth Circuit that finds a defendant's counsel ineffective for telling him he could not possibly succeed with a justification defense to a federal felon-in-possession charge.  Though not technically a sentencing decision, I cannot help but think that the defendant's 15-year sentence may have played at least an indirect role in the Fourth Circuit's decision to vacate the defendant's conviction.

August 6, 2007 at 06:26 PM | Permalink


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This is a fascinating case all around. In the first place, the appeal was argued successfully by a third-year law student.

It also illustrates the increasing federal criminalization of local conduct. The wording of the statute makes a passing swipe at "interstate commerce," but there was nothing "interstate" about the alleged incident at all. The highly conservative Fourth Circuit agrees that the defendant did the "right thing," and yet, local police turned him over to the feds, who wanted to put him behind bars for 15 years. Funnily enough, they don't seem to have bothered themselves about the girlfriend who put a gun to his head in the first place.

There cannot be many federal prosecutors who can say they were defeated on appeal at oral argument by a third-year law student. It shows how weak a case the feds had.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Aug 7, 2007 8:13:21 AM

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