State v. Oguta

The New Jersey Appellate Division confronted the intersection of a justification defense and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d), which prohibits possession of a weapon “under circumstances not manifestly appropriate for such lawful uses as it may have.” The trial court refused to instruct the jury on self-defense regarding that charge. The Appellate Division reversed. The Court noted that … Read more

Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI

The Third Circuit granted the appellee’s motion to publish its opinion in Baxter v. Superintendent Coal Twp. SCI. The case arose in the context of a habeas corpus petition wherein the petitioner claimed that the trial court’s reasonable doubt instruction to the jury was inaccurate and caused prejudice. The instruction provided the example that if … Read more

State v. Sanders

In State v. Sanders, the defendant appealed his convictions of murder, unlawful possession of a weapon, and endangering an injured victim. The novel issue presented in the appeal was whether a claim of self-defense applied to a charge of endangering, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.2(a). Here, the victim swung at the defendant, who dodged the punch and stabbed … Read more

Commonwealth v. McFalls

In Commonwealth v. McFalls, the defendant appealed her conviction at a bench trial on the charge of DUI and her conviction by a jury on the charges of aggravated harassment by a prisoner and institutional vandalism. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed. First, the Court held that the trial court properly quashed the defendant’s subpoena because … Read more

State v. Ramierz

In State v. Ramirez, the New Jersey Supreme Court attempted to settle the standard for accomplice liability under N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6(c)(1). That statute governs accomplice liability for the failure to prevent the commission of an offense when under a legal duty to do so. This case involved the tragic death of the defendants’ toddler. The trial … Read more

United States v. Shulick

In United States v. Shulik, the defendant, whose co-conspirator was Chaka Fattah, Jr., appealed his convictions of conspiracy, embezzlement, and fraud charges. He alleged several errors, ranging from speedy trial right violations to errors in evidentiary rulings, faulty jury instructions, and sentencing miscalculations. The Third Circuit reviewed each claim, concluded there was no reversible error … Read more

Commonwealth v. H.D.

In Commonwealth v. H.D., a jury convicted the defendant of interference with child custody, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2904(a). The defendant appealed, and the Superior Court reversed, holding that the belief element of the § 2904(b)(1) defense “does not provide an opportunity for a  jury to compare the  actions of the defendant with a reasonable person … Read more

State v. Dunbrack

In State v. Dunbrack, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed two defendants’ convictions for robbery — and reversed the Appellate Division — over claims that the trial court should have sua sponte charged the jury on lesser-included theft offenses. Pursuant to the case’s plain error standard of review, the Supreme Court held that the facts of … Read more

Commonwealth v. Montalvo

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the PCRA court’s order, granting a capital defendant a new guilty-phase hearing (trial) in Commonwealth v. Montalvo. The Supreme Court held that the trial judge twice incorrectly stated the governing law in her closing instructions to the jury. Both times, the trial judge appeared to misspeak, stating that, “if the … Read more

State v. Paden-Battle

After a trial, which included chilling testimony about gang violence, a jury convicted the defendant of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and felony murder. The defendant appealed arguing the trial court erred when it instructed the jury. The Appellate Division affirmed as to the jury instructions. However, the Court vacated the conviction, because the jury verdict … Read more