In U.S. v. Elliot, the defendant was convicted of the federal crime of robbery and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The district court in Alabama imposed a life sentence after determining that two of his prior felony convictions qualified him for a career enhancement under the federal sentencing guidelines, U.S.S.G. §4B1.1. On appeal Elliot challenge a photo lineup on grounds that it was unduly suggestive because there was a substantial likelihood existed that the witness’s eyewitness identification was not based on her own independent recollection, but instead was tainted by her observation of photos of him on the internet, on printed flyers, and on a portion of a surveillance videotape. The Eleventh Circuit federal court of appeals found no federal due process violation because the photo lineup arranged by the police was not suggestive. The lineup contained photographs of the defendant and five other men who were selected by a computer program for their physical similarities to the defendant. The officer conducting the lineup did not suggest which person should be picked not did he pressure the witness to pick anyone. Furthermore the police had no involvement in the witness’ independent viewing of Elliot’s photos at the store or on the internet, or the surveillance video.
Prior youthful offender conviction qualified for career offender status.
One of Elliot’s prior convictions arose when he was 20 years old when he robbed a man of $150 and a pack of cigarettes while armed with a pistol. He was charged with a first degree robbery and received a youthful offender adjudication and placed on probation. He violated probation with a subsequent robbery. He argued on appeal that his youthful offender adjudication does not qualify for a conviction under the career offender provision of 4B1.1 because under the Alabama youthful offender adjudication cannot be counted under Alabama law. The Alabama law youthful offender Act applies to anyone who is under the age of 21 at the time the offense was committed.
Under section § 4B1.1(a) of the sentencing guidelines a defendant is a career offender if he was at least 18 years of age at the time of the instant offense; the instant offense was a felon y that is either a crime of violence or a controlled substance offense; and he has at least two prior felony convictions for crimes of violence or a controlled substance offense. Section 4B1.2(c) of the guidelines states that the conviction may arise from a guilty plea, a trial, or a plea of nolo contendere. Because Elliot was 20 years old when the offense was committed, there is no need to resort to state law to determine whether the adjudication qualified him as an adult conviction. The court also found that even though Elliot entered a plea of nolo contendere and adjudication was withheld, the prior conviction was a “conviction” for the purpose of the sentencing enhancement. The federal court is not bound by the fact that Alabama law does not consider a youthful offender adjudication to be a conviction. Though Elliot was a youthful offender and not considered convicted under Alabama law, he sustained a conviction under the career offender enhancement.