May 26th, 2022
US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
USA v. Hill, et al
Opinion Date: May 24, 2022
Judge: James L. Dennis
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Four Defendants were involved in an armored car robbery at a bank automated teller machine. Defendants were each convicted of aiding and abetting robbery, attempted robbery, and aiding and abetting the use of a firearm during a crime of violence causing the death of a person.
Defendants each raised multiple issues challenging their convictions and sentences and the Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that Defendants failed to show that any potential error affected their substantial rights.
The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in shackling Defendant. The court reasoned that even taking as true Defendant’s assertion that the jury saw his shackles when he was removed from the courtroom, this was a brief and inadvertent exposure. Therefore, Defendant bears the burden of demonstrating prejudice. He does not present any evidence showing that he was actually prejudiced.
Next, the district court did not abuse its discretion in temporarily removing Defendant from the courtroom following his outburst. The court explicitly warned Defendant more than once to cease his disruptive conduct lest he be removed.
Moreover, the court found that one of the Defendant’s outbursts falls short of the rare circumstances in which a codefendant’s disruption results in incurable prejudice such that a mistrial is required. Similarly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the co-defendant’s motion to sever because the charges against the co-defendant do not differ dramatically from those against his codefendants.
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