May 15, 2012 4th Circuit published opinions

Harman Mining Company v Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs

Harman was ordered to pay benefits under the black lung program to a worker who had legal pneumoconiosis. The panel dismissed their petition for review finding the administrative law judge’s determination of eligibility was supported by substantial evidence, that her rejection of certain medical testimony as inconsistent with department of Labor regulations was appropriate, that her explanation was adequate and her reliance on a regulatory preamble was acceptable under the circumstances.

United States v DeLeon

Deleon was convicted of murdering his stepson through abuse. The panel affirmed. It held statements by the victim about prior corporal punishment to a social worker were nontestimonial as they objectively were elicited and given to create a treatment plan not prepare evidence for a criminal prosecution. It next held several statements by the victim and his half-sister about past punishment were properly admitted under the residual exception to the hearsay rule and that limits on expert testimony and admission of prior acts of punishment were appropriate under the circumstances. It finally rejected a claim that the age of the victim is an element of the crime to be determined by the jury holding it is a sentencing factor to be determined by the sentencing judge.

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