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February 11, 2013

Intriguing (failed) effort to assail juve predicate for severe ACCA term

Though providing little solace to the losing criminal defendant, I am inclined to give blog points for creative defense advocacy efforts reflected in today's Tenth Circuit panel opinion in US v. Rich, No. 11-6342 (10th Cir. Feb 11, 2013) (available here).  Here is how the opinion starts:

Defendant Paul Everett Rich, III, pled guilty to one count of felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).  Because he had been convicted of three predicate offenses, he qualified for enhanced punishment under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 180 months’ imprisonment.  Rich now appeals the imposition of the sentencing enhancement claiming: 1) his juvenile adjudication was “dismissed” by Oklahoma courts and should not be counted as a prior conviction under the ACCA; and 2) the ACCA violates substantive due process by considering these older, juvenile adjudications.  We affirm.

I tend to view any substantive due process claim to be the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.  But the Tenth Circuit's thoughtful engagement with this claim in the published Rich opinion provide a useful reminder that, at least in court, defendants may often need to offer up a few long-shot prayers for relief before any one will ever likely be answered.

February 11, 2013 at 05:08 PM | Permalink


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I read that whole case. I can only agree with defendant that old 20 and 30 year old juvenile adjudications are not prior convictions, but so far, the Courts have ruled that they are so. This defendant had two other convictions, which the court argued showed that the defendant never learns from his mistakes. But my son's 1884 juvenile adjudication was used in his criminal history in a 2007 conviction, causing his sentence to be 280 months. My son had no other prior convictions. I pray every day for this law to be changed. Juveniles did not have the option of a jury trial in 1984 in my state. Recently, they have began jury trials for juveniles, but that doesn't help the ones who have already had their sentences lengthened.

Posted by: Dana | Feb 11, 2013 9:39:41 PM

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