Refining the Definition of “Testimonial Evidence” under Crawford v. Washington

March 20, 2014 Evidence

You take a worthwhile social goal – protecting domestic partners from abuse – and then you contort the U.S. Constitution to achieve that goal. In the days of Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980), the testimony came in as long as it was reliable.  There was no need for the complainant to appear when a […]

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The Duty to Disclose Includes the Duty to Preserve

February 12, 2014 Evidence

Police officers fail to preserve a critical piece of evidence, in this case a video recording taken of the incident in question.  The defendant moves for sanctions.  In opposing this motion, the government argues that the defendant’s arguments about what the recording contained is speculative.  The court agrees. Am I missing something here?  Without the […]

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No Strong-Arming of Defendants Into Accepting Pleas

January 31, 2014 Opinions/Cases

When the two defendants opted for trial, rejecting a deferred sentencing agreement that had been offered by the government, Judge Brian Holeman may have been doing them a favor when he warned them that they would face certain jail-time if convicted.  After all, that is exactly what happened. At the same time, as the D.C. […]

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Is Concession of Guilt In Opening Statement A Guilty Plea?

January 31, 2014 Criminal Procedure

During the defendant’s opening statement at trial, Denardo Hopkins’ lawyer got up in front of the jury and conceded that this client was guilty of felony drug dealing charges.  The issue the D.C. Court of Appeals faced in Hopkins v. United States, __ A.3d __ (D.C. 2014), was this:  Did this admission constitute a guilty […]

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Ortberg v. United States: Unlawful Entry Requires More Than “General Intent”

January 9, 2014 Opinions/Cases

The common law distinction between “general intent” and “specific intent” offenses doesn’t work.  This is what the D.C. Court of Appeals emphasized once again in Adam Ortberg v. United States, ___ A.3d ___ (2013), a recent case dealing with the required mental state for unlawful entry. The defendant in Ortberg was charged with unlawful entry […]

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PDS Launches Criminal Law Blog

September 25, 2013 Criminal Law Bloggers

The Public Defender Service (PDS) has just begun a blog — the PDS Criminal Law Blog — that reviews recent D.C. Court of Appeals opinions.  With Samia Fam, Nancy Glass, Jackie Frankfurt, and a handful of other public defenders sharing responsibility for the writing, the blog will certainly have some heavy hitters behind it.  The […]

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Mitchell v. U.S.: Cruelty to Children is a General Intent Offense

April 16, 2013 Opinions/Cases

In Pennsylvania, the offense is known as endangering the welfare of a child.  In D.C., it is cruelty to children and, as the D.C. Court of Appeals pointed out recently in Mitchell v. United States, 64 A.3d 154 (D.C. 2013), you cannot read too much into the title of a criminal offense:  The title is […]

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Young v. U.S.: The Confrontation Clause Is Still Alive In D.C.

April 4, 2013 Criminal Procedure

The U.S. Supreme Court has made such a mess of the Confrontation Clause line of cases that the D.C. Court of Appeals declared today that it really doesn’t know what to do. So it decided to do the right thing instead. In Robert Young v. United States, 63 A.3d 1033 (D.C. 2013), the D.C. Court […]

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Further Guidance on Significant Bodily Injury in Quintanilla v. U.S.

March 25, 2013 Criminal Procedure

The D.C. Court of Appeals took another step last week in defining what up until recently has been a poorly defined term:  the “significant bodily injury” that is required in order for the government to prove felony assault. Although the appellant in Fidel Quintanilla v. United States, 62 A.3d 1261 (D.C. 2013), was convicted of […]

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Haye v. U.S.: Unlawful Entry, Criminal Contempt, Double Jeopardy, and Prior Bad Acts

March 24, 2013 Criminal Procedure

When people talk about evidence being admitted at trial, they tend to think in terms of physical evidence:  guns, drugs, documents, fingerprints, DNA, that type of thing. Sometimes you need to remind them that oral testimony alone – someone getting up on the stand and testifying to what he or she saw – can also […]

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