United States v Chavez-Morales

Chavez-Morales appealed his sentence and the imposition of supervised release. Applying plain error review because Chavez-Morales did not object after sentence was announced, the panel held that the district court meaningfully responded to Chavez-Morales’ economic incentives argument on three occasions during sentencing and thus there was no procedural error. It held that there was no plain error in imposing supervised release even though the district court failed to follow proper procedures as the district court throughout the proceedings below stated its belief that Chavez-Morales needed to be specifically deterred form illegally entering the United States, defense counsel agreed with that assessment and supervised release will have a deterrent effect and thus there is no basis to conclude a different outcome here if the district court was required to go through the proper procedures on a remand.

Alpenglow Botanicals, LLC v United States

Alpenglow appealed the dismissal of its claim for return of disputed taxes and its motion to amend or alter judgment. The panel affirmed. It held that the IRs has authority under 26 USC 280E to investigate whether Alpenglow violated federal drug laws by selling marijuana products legal under Colorado law and that Alpenglow failed to prove error in the IRS’s calculations of taxes after deductions were disallowed. It rejected a 16th Amendment argument holding only costs of goods sold is a mandatory exclusion of the definition of gross income and all the claimed deceptions for ordinary business expenses here are acts of legislative grace unbailable to business which sell marijuana. It held that Alpenglow’s 8th Amendment claim failed under the circuit’s Green Solutions precedent. It affirmed the denial of the motion to amend as two alleged new claims were untimely, one was legally futile, the district court did not improperly rely on public policy in its analysis and the dead letter theory either does not exist at law and in any event was not timely raised and the government has announced its intention to enforce drug laws in states with legal marijuana businesses.

Underwood v Royal

Underwood appealed the denial of his habeas petition in this death penalty case. The panel affirmed. It rejected Underwood’s ineffective assistance claim as the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appels reasonably concluded there was a strategic basis to not call an expert to dispute when the victim died namely not focusing the jury on the details of the crime instead of mitigation evidence. It rejected Underwood’s prosecutorial misconduct claim holding any violation in commenting about shaving the victims pubic region did not unfairly overshadow various depraved acts Underwood confessed to. It rejected underwood’s arguments about mitigation jury instructions as they had been rejected in circuit precedent and there was no unreasonable factual determination as the prosecutor’s arguments as a whole encouraged consideration of mitigation evidence and reminded the jury it alone decided the issue. It held that no relief was required for wrongly allowing relatives to ask for the death penalty at sentencing because it was not structural error under circuit precedent and there was no prejudice given the aggravating case of deliberately beating and suffocation a 10 year old girl, attempting to molest her remains and attempting to decapitate her remains which was sufficiently strong to overcome the mitigation evidence presented including mental health issues, the family recommendations were brief and not overly emotional. It rejected Underwood’s challenge to the weighing process between aggravating and mitigating circumstances based on circuit precedent. It finally held that there was no cumulative error violation as there was no prejudice given the strength of the aggravating circumstances.