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Drug Conviction Reversed, and Criminal and Civil Rights Matters

By FindLaw Staff on September 06, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In US v. Wilson, No. 09-3338, the court affirmed in part defendant's convictions for conspiring to distribute marijuana and cocaine, and for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it, holding that 1) the shooting as to which the district court admitted evidence was similar to the drug-trafficking charged in this case because it stemmed from a dispute over a drug debt; and 2) the probative value of the testimony was not substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice.  However, the court reversed in part where there was no evidence from which a reasonable jury could have found that defendant knew, on June 9, 2007, that there was cocaine in a cohort's car.

Fisher v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 09-2696, concerned an action against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and two Missouri police officers following an incident involving counterfeit money orders at a Raymore Wal-Mart store.  The court affirmed summary judgment for defendants where 1) given these undisputed facts, probable cause supported plaintiff's warrantless arrest; 2) attorney's fees were proper because plaintiff's continued prosecution of her false arrest claim against the officers in the face of the evidence upon discovery was unquestionably groundless and unreasonable; and 3) the record reflected no evidence of racial animus or hostility toward plaintiff.

Gallagher v. Magner, No. 09-1209, involved consolidated actions by several owners and former owners of rental properties in St. Paul, Minnesota, challenging the City of St. Paul's enforcement of its housing code.  The court affirmed summary judgment for defendants in part where 1) plaintiffs did not assert a claim under the McDonnell Douglas framework; 2) plaintiffs were not exercising a right under the Fair Housing Act by leasing to racial minorities; and 3) plaintiffs failed to reference a particular section of the St. Paul Code, let alone analyze why that section was vague.  However, the court reversed in part where the city's aggressive enforcement of the Housing Code resulted in a disproportionate adverse effect on racial minorities, particularly African-Americans.

In US v. Aponte, No. 09-3461, the court reversed defendants' convictions for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture, holding that a reasonable jury must have had reasonable doubt as to defendants' awareness of the drugs inside the cooler in the back of their vehicle.

In US v. Voice, No. 09-3260, the court affirmed defendant's conviction for violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), holding that 1) the court rejected the suggestion that a savvy sex offender could move to a different city and avoid having to update his SORNA registration by sleeping in a different shelter or other location every night; 2) the court's ruling on defendant's objection, referring the jury to the jury instructions was sufficient to correct any misstatement of the governing law; and 3) defendant did not have an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the bags he left in an abandoned comfort station on tribal property and, in any event, he abandoned the bags and any privacy interest in them.

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