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Decisions In Civil Rights, Criminal Law & Tort Matters

By FindLaw Staff on August 24, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

US v. Lanham, 08-6504, concerned a challenge to convictions and sentences of defendants-correctional officers' for conspiracy to violate an inmate's civil rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. sections 241 and 242 and making false entry in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 1519, arising from an inmate being beaten and raped by other inmates as a result of defendants' decision to scare the inmate by placing him in a general population jail cell.


In affirming the convictions and the sentences, the court affirmedvwhere: 1)  defendants failed to show that there was an unconstitutional jury error; 2) district court did not commit plain error in  limiting defendants' cross-examination of a witness; 3) sufficient evidence supported defendants' convictions as they took affirmative steps to place the inmate in harm, and thus violated both statutes, plus they falsified records; 4) a sexual assault enhancement is affirmed; 5) defendant's sentence is affirmed as his actions were deliberately indifferent, and after the rape, he was an active participant in the cover-up of the crime; 6) district court properly held that no Brady violation occurred; 7) district court's application of the 2002 Guidelines to defendants' sentences is affirmed; and 8) district court's decision not to apply the leader or organizer enhancement to a defendant's sentence was not a legal error.

US v. Brown, 09-5431, concerned a challenge to the district court's acquittal of defendant following a jury conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm by invoking the "corroboration rule." In reversing, the court held that substantial independent evidence - that certain specified items were stolen from an individual's house - lends support to defendant's confession that he possessed a gun.

Jones v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 09-5504, involved a plaintiff's negligence action against defendant-railroad company arising from a collision between plaintiff's husband's vehicle and a train owned by defendant.  In affirming the district court's grant of plaintiff's motion for sanctions and denial of of her post-trial motions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60, following a jury verdict for defendant, the court held that plaintiff cannot now demand a new trial as she had ample reason and opportunity to seek corrective action in the form of a mistrial before the jury returned its verdict in favor of defendant.  Also, district court did not abuse its discretion in denying post-trial discovery and an evidentiary hearing based on plaintiff's insufficient showing that defense counsel ultimately withheld material information or bribed a witness.  Lastly, although the district court erred in invoking Rule 11, its entry of sanctions against defense counsel under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, 28 U.S.C. section 1927 was not an abuse of its authority.

Johnson v. City of Memphis, 09-5046, involved a plaintiff's 28 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against defendant-city arising out of a home entry by police officers and the fatal shooting of plaintiff's husband.  In affirming the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to reconsider its denial of her motion to amend her complaint and a  grant of the city's motion for summary judgment, the court held that the combination of a 911 hang call, an unanswered return call, and an open door with no response from within the residence is sufficient to satisfy the exigency requirement.  Also, because the plain language of the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act preserves immunity for suits claiming negligent injuries arising from civil rights violations, district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion to amend and reinstate her state law claim.

Albrecht v. Treon, 09-3703, involved a plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. section 1983 suit against a coroner and others claiming that they were denied due process of law when defendant-coroner performed an autopsy on their son's remains and removed the brain during the procedure and returned the body to the plaintiffs, without informing them that the coroner had retained the brain for further study.  In affirming district court's judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants, the court held that the district court appropriately deferred to the Ohio Supreme Court's interpretation of Ohio law in finding that the plaintiffs did not have a property interest in the son's body parts the coroner retained for investigative purposes.  The court also held that Albrecht II did not change Ohio law, and as such, plaintiffs had no property rights on which the state could infringe.

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