Thursday, January 26, 2012

U.S. v. McGowan (9th Cir. - Jan. 26, 2012)

Third judge's a charm?

A prison guard allegedly assaults a couple of inmates and is criminally charged for it.  The jury convicts, but the district court enters a judgment of acquittal.  The Ninth Circuit reverses.  And because it's Judge Real, the Ninth Circuit also remands the case to a different judge.  (The Ninth Circuit gives a slightly different reason, but the identity of the jurist is a big part of it.)

Now it's time to sentence.  The new judge, Judge Wright, decides upon a three-year sentence, in part because he believes a snitch who says that the guard is also smuggling drugs into the prison.  Another appeal, and another reversal.  The Ninth Circuit holds that the district judge shouldn't have relied on the informant's testimony without permitting cross-examination, especially in a setting such as this one in which the informant had every reason to lie and little indicia of reliability.

And another district court judge.  The Ninth Circuit says that Judge Wright may have already made up his mind on the sentence, so we'll get a third judge on remand.

Let's hope that one sticks.  It also makes me wonder what the record is for multiple reassignments on appeal.