Two criminal-appeal opinions

U.S. v. Ludwikowski—criminal—affirmance—Fisher

A New Jersey pharmacist went to police to report that former customers were threatening to expose and to physically harm him after he stopped filling their oxycodone prescriptions. But when he did, police questioned him for several hours, without Miranda warnings, not just to gather evidence of the extortion but also to find out what he was afraid they would expose. They used his statements from that interrogation to prosecute him for drug distribution.

On appeal, he argued that his interrogation statements should have been excluded because his Miranda rights were violated. The Third Circuit disagreed, holding that no Miranda violation occurred because, on “only … the precise facts before us,” he was not in custody. The court also rejecting his other challenges based on the voluntariness of his statements and the admission of expert testimony about pharmacy practices. (The court cited an old Third Circuit case, Steigler v. Anderson, that I’d never seen before.)

Joining Fisher were Ambro and Restrepo. Arguing counsel were Lisa Mathewson for the defendant and Norman Gross for the government.


U.S. v. Tyrone Mitchell—criminal—partial reversal—Fuentes

The Third Circuit held today that the district court that sentenced a criminal defendant committed plain error when it relied on the man’s bare arrest record to determine his sentence. The court rejected seven other challenges to the convictions and the 85-year sentence this 50-year-old man received.

Joining Fuentes were McKee and Roth. Arguing counsel were Lisa Van Hoeck of the NJ federal defenders for the defendant and Robert Zauzmer of the EDPA US Attorney’s office for the governemnt.