United States v. Jingles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 06-08-2012
  • Case #: 08-15634
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wallace for the Court; Circuit Judges D. Nelson and Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

An indictment found to be constructively amended does not require automatic reversal of a defendant's conviction under plain error review. A defendant's conviction only requires reversal if the constructive amendment seriously affects "the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings."

John Wesley Jingles was convicted on numerous counts for his role in conspiring to traffic cocaine. He was sentenced to 520 years on aggregated sentences and life terms on three counts. Jingles filed a pro se motion to correct or set aside the judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which was denied by the magistrate judge and the district court panel. Jingles appealed to the Ninth Circuit in order to collaterally attack his conviction on two life term counts. Jingles argued that the indictment on those two charges was constructively amended in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit first considered whether Jingles presented this issue in his direct appeal to determine whether the district court had ruled on this issue “explicitly or by necessary implication.” The Court determined that the district court decided the issue by necessary implication after the district court found that the variance in Jingles’s indictment was harmless. Noting Jingles’s failure to preserve this issue in district court, the Court found no clear error in the prior panel’s decision. The Court also overturned prior circuit precedent requiring automatic reversal if an indictment was constructively amended. The Ninth Circuit adopted the United States Supreme Court’s position in Cotton, holding that under plain error review, a constructive amendment requires reversal only if it “seriously affect[ed] the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” The Court stated that, “[b]ecause our previous panel’s rejection of [Jingles’s] constructive amendment claim [did] not work a manifest injustice,” the prior panel’s decision should be respected as the law of the case.

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