Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

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D.J.M., a student in the Hannibal Public School District #60 (district), sent instant messages from his home to a classmate in which he talked about getting a gun and shooting some other students at school. After D.J.M. was subsequently suspended for ten days and later for the remainder of the school year as a result of his actions, D.J.M.'s parents sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the district violated D.J.M.'s First Amendment rights. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment to the district on D.J.M.'s constitutional claims and remanded his state claim for administrative review. The court held that D.J.M. intentionally communicated his threats to a third party and the district court did not err in finding that they were true threats. The court also held that true threats were not protected under the First Amendment and the district was given enough information that it reasonably feared D.J.M. had access to a handgun and was thinking about shooting specific classmates at the high school. Therefore, in light of the district's obligation to ensure the safety of its students and reasonable concerns created by shooting deaths at other schools, the district court did not err in concluding that the district did not violate the First Amendment by notifying the police and subsequently suspending him after he was placed in juvenile detention. The court further held that it was reasonably foreseeable that D.J.M.'s threats would be brought to the attention of school authorities and created a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment. The court finally held that it was not an abuse of discretion to dismiss the state law claim as moot. Accordingly, the judgment of the court was affirmed. View "D.J.M., et al. v. Hannibal Public Sch. Dist., et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant, 16 years-old at the time, appealed his juvenile delinquency conviction on two counts of aggravated assault of his four year old nephew (J.D.). On appeal, defendant contended that J.D.'s refusal to identify him as the perpetrator created ipso facto reasonable doubt as to his guilt, and thus rendered the district court's judgment unsupported by the evidence. The court held that there was nothing in the record to suggest that the district court's credibility determination was so erroneous as to merit reversal and combining this credibility assessment with the other evidence in the record, the court found that defendant's conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. Therefore, a reasonable fact-finder could find that defendant was guilty on this evidence and thus, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. B.A.D." on Justia Law

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Appellant pleaded guilty to three counts of bank robbery and one count of aiding and abetting the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. At issue was whether the district court properly assessed too many criminal history points for appellant's juvenile sentences because they were not "sentence[s] to confinement" under U.S.S.G. 4A1.2(d)(2)(A). The court held that the district court properly assessed appellant's criminal history points where that court heard uncontested testimony that appellant was confined and not free to leave while at certain juvenile facilities. Accordingly, the sentence was affirmed. View "United States v. Stewart" on Justia Law

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Appellant petitioned for his son's transfer to Israel for custody adjudication alleging that his son had been wrongfully detained in Iowa by the child's mother. At issue was whether the district court erred in finding that the parties' intention was to make Iowa the habitual residence where the district court emphasized the son's perspective that the settled purpose of his relocation to Iowa was to reside there habitually. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that the parties' intent at the time of the move was to make Iowa the son's habitual residence whether the district court emphasized the son's perspective or the parents' perspectives; that the parties maintained no home in Israel after coming to Iowa and appellant spent two months closing down his business before rejoining his family in the United States; that it appeared that the family did intend to "abandon" Israel; and any agreement of the pair to return to Israel would have involved staying in the United States for the indefinite amount of time it would take the mother to finish her doctorate.

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After a jury found defendant guilty of various federal sex crimes, the district court sentenced her to 120 months in prison and the court reversed the sentence, holding that it was unreasonable. The Supreme Court subsequently granted defendant's petition for a writ of certiorari and vacated the judgment and remanded for reconsideration in light of Pepper v. United States. The court again vacated the 120 month sentence and remanded for resentencing where the district court could consider evidence of postsentencing rehabilitation on defendant's part, including, but not limited to, any rehabilitation after sentencing. The court also ordered the district court to ensure the child victim received any restitution to which she was entitled from defendant.