Monthly Archives: August 2016

Teen is Convicted of Murder of Iraqi Immigrant in Texas

By Peek & Toland on August 2, 2016

A jury in Dallas recently sentenced a teenager to 38 years in prison for the murder of an Iraqi immigrant as he went outside to take pictures of the first snow he had ever seen.

It was a crime that shocked the city of Dallas and one that appeared to demonstrate some of the hostility immigrants to the United States face.

However, prosecutors decided the killing was not a hate crime.

Teen is convicted of murder of Iraqi in Texas

A jury in Dallas convicted Nykerion Nealon, 19, of fatally shooting 36-year-old Ahmed al-Jumaili, in March 2015, reported Reuters. The Iraqi immigrant was standing in the parking lot of his apartment complex taking pictures of snow at the time. Murder is defined under Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code which we detail here.

The killing came just three weeks after the Iraqi arrived in the United States. Although the homicide was initially investigated as a hate crime, the authorities later concluded that Nealon did not know al-Jumaili’s ethnicity and may have killed him in retaliation for a shooting at his girlfriend’s apartment.

Nealon was 17 years old at the time of the killing. He ended up firing 14 rounds from an assault rifle. One of them struck al-Jumaili in the chest.

Advocates for immigrants said the crime illustrated some of the dangers newcomers face in the United States. Alia Salem, executive director of the Dallas branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said:

“Coming to this country for a new start, only to have it stripped away from them in such a horrible fashion, has been unimaginable.”

Hate crimes in Texas are defined in The Texas Hate Crimes Act, Chapter 411.046 of the Texas Government Code.

These are crimes that are defined as “motivated by prejudice, hatred, or advocacy of violence.” Typically these are crimes in which the offender demonstrates prejudice based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

The Texas Department of Public Safety recorded 243 hate crimes in the state in 2007. Race forms the largest proportion of these crimes – more than 50 percent – and the highest number are anti-black.

Hate crimes against Muslims rose dramatically after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and also rose after 2009, according to Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.

There can often be a gray area between a crime of violence and a hate crime. In some cases prosecutors will wrongly label an offense a hate crime.

If you are charged with an offense of this nature, it’s important to contact an experienced Austin criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Supreme Court Decides Fourth Amendment Search Case in Favor of Police

By Peek & Toland on August 1, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided an important Fourth Amendment search case in favor of investigators after a suspect challenged the discovery of drugs, arguing police had no reasonable suspicion to stop him.

In the case of Utah v. Strieff, the justices considered search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

The long-running case followed a 2006 incident in which police received an anonymous tip that narcotics were for sale at a house in Salt Lake City in Utah. A drug detective became suspicious after he saw a considerable number of people making brief visits to the house over the course of a week. While the police had the house under surveillance they stopped Edward Strieff, Jr. for questioning.

Supreme Court cases explored fourth amendment search rights

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we represent many defendants who are accused of drug crimes in Texas. In some cases, the charges have been brought after illegal stops and searches. We were, therefore, interested in the result of this important case.

In Salt Lake City, Officer Douglas Fackrell apprehended Strieff at a nearby parking lot. The narcotic detective identified himself and asked Strieff what he was doing at the home. He asked to see his identification and gave the information to a police dispatcher, who told him that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation.

Police Search Found Drugs on Suspect

The officer searched Strieff and discovered methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia. He was then arrested.

Strieff later challenged the legality of the search and the arrest, claiming Fackrell lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him. He argued that the evidence recovered from the search should be suppressed.

The state claimed that the exclusionary rule, which decrees evidence obtained after an unlawful stop is tainted and cannot be used, did not apply because the discovery of the traffic warrant broke the chain of causation between an unlawful stop and the discovery of evidence.

The trial court denied the defense motion. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court. However, the case went to the Utah Supreme Court which reversed the decision of the trial court, ruled there was not an exception to the exclusionary rule, and ordered the evidence to be suppressed

The U.S. Supreme Court considered the attenuation exception which finds investigators can use evidence obtained through unlawful government action if there is a sufficiently weak connection between the misconduct in question and the discovery of the evidence.

The Supreme Court considered whether the Fourth Amendment bars the use of evidence if police learn about an outstanding warrant for a suspect’s arrest after a stop that is later revealed to be illegal.

The Justices concluded that while the short time between the unlawful stop and the search of Strieff, seemed to favor the drug evidence being suppressed, the presence of a valid arrest warrant against Strieff was an “extraordinary intervening circumstance.”

The justices also alluded to the absence of any fragrant misconduct by the arresting officer who they pointed out was engaged in a legitimate investigation of the drug house.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the finding of the Utah Supreme Court 5-3, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas on June 20 and found the meth and paraphernalia evidence was admissible. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion in which she blasted the majority which she accused of trampling on Fourth Amendment freedoms.

If you or a family member has been charged with a drug related offense, you are likely to be facing serious consequences. It’s important to contact a Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Drug Crimes

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