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Media Alerts - United States v. DeLeon - Fourth Circuit
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November 12, 2013
  United States v. DeLeon - Fourth Circuit
Headline: Stepfather May Not Face Mandatory 30 Years After Court Found His Physical Abuse Was the Cause of His Stepson's Death

Area of Law: Criminal Law; Constitutional Law

Brief Summary: Roberto DeLeon was sentenced to a mandatory thirty-year term of incarceration for the assault and second-degree murder of his eight-year-old stepson. While his wife served in the air force, DeLeon took on primary responsibility for the care of his two stepchildren, Jordan (8 years old) and "A.D." (9 years old). The family resided near an air force base in Japan. The day before Jordan's death, DeLeon was home alone with the children. The next morning, Jordan died due to hemorrhaging from a lacerated liver, caused by blunt force trauma to his abdomen. There were no witnesses to the assault, however testimony of DeLeon's previous use of corporal punishment was allowed.

DeLeon appealed his conviction, 1) claiming his Sixth Amendment rights were violated, 2) contending hearsay evidence was improperly admitted, and 3) arguing that Jordan's age should have been determined by the jury not the court. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, and DeLeon petitioned for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. While DeLeon's case was pending, the Supreme Court overruled precedent to find that facts that increase the mandatory minimum must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. Due to this new standard, the Court vacated DeLeon's sentence and remanded the case to the Fourth Circuit.

The Fourth Circuit re-examined the sentencing issue using the new standard (Alleyne). This required the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that DeLeon would have still received a mandatory thirty year sentence, whether the issue was submitted to a jury or decided by the judge. The court found that the government's inability to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the sentence imposed would not have been different, required a remand for resentencing. The Fourth Circuit cited the admission by the government that the statutory minimum was severe, and the district court's expressed displeasure with the thirty-year mandatory minimum as its rationale.

To read the full decision, please visit:

Significance: When a defendant's mandatory minimum for sentencing is dramatically increased based on the age of the victim, it becomes an issue that must be presented to the jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Panel: Judges Niemeyer, Wynn, and Diaz

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/12/2013

Docket Number: No. 10-4064

Decided: Vacate and remand

Case Alert Author: Jasmyn Allen

Counsel: Argued: Paresh S. Patel, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellant. Paul Michael Cunningham, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Paul E. Budlow, Assistant United States Attorney, Julia Jarrett, Student Intern, Office of the United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Author of Opinion: Per Curiam

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/12/2013 12:43 PM     4th Circuit  

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