Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

by
In 1998, Long, age 16, got into Purkey’s truck. Purkey, 46, threatened her with a knife and drove her across the state line to his home, where he raped her and ultimately killed her. Purkey dismembered Long’s body and burned the pieces. He dumped the remains into a septic lagoon. Later in 1998, he killed 80-year-old Bales. He was caught. While awaiting trial, Purkey contacted Detective Howard about Long and insisted that an FBI agent come along because he thought that if he were convicted on federal charges, he could serve a life sentence in a federal facility. Purkey confessed to killing Long, took them to the crime scene, and gave handwritten confessions. Howard and Tarpley denied that any deal was on the table. After Purkey pleaded guilty to the Bales murder, he was indicted for Long's kidnapping, rape, and murder. Purkey had repeatedly confessed to kidnapping Long; his defense was that he thought she was a prostitute who willingly accompanied him and that he had fabricated the kidnapping claim to be prosecuted in federal court. Defense counsel did not object to the use of his confessions to refute that story. A jury voted for a death sentence. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief, rejecting claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and several alleged violations of his due process rights--government misconduct during the trial, insufficient evidence to find kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt, and error in the jury’s failure to address the question of mitigating evidence. View "Purkey v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Triggs was indicted for unlawfully possessing a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9), which prohibits firearm possession by persons convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. The predicate conviction was more than 10 years old. Triggs brought an as-applied Second Amendment challenge to the indictment. When that argument failed, he conditionally pleaded guilty,. After he filed his notice of appeal, the Supreme Court issued its 2019 “Rehaif” decision, holding that in a section 922(g) prosecution, the government must prove that the defendant “knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.” The second knowledge element is new. Triggs raised a Rehaif claim, seeking to withdraw his plea. The Seventh Circuit vacated and remanded. Triggs has made the required showing to withdraw his plea. Triggs must establish a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded guilty if he had known the government had to prove the Rehaif knowledge element. That element depends on whether Triggs can plausibly argue that he did not know he belonged to the relevant category of persons disqualified from firearm possession. In contrast to some other categories of prohibited persons listed in section 922(g)—notably, felons—the statutory definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” is quite complicated, giving Triggs a plausible defense. View "United States v. Triggs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
In 2014, Tyburski, then age 74, applied for a promotion with his employer, the Chicago Department of Water Management. His application was rejected. Tyburski sued, claiming that he was denied the promotion because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. He also brought a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA regarding harassment he allegedly experienced at two Department facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. Tyburski has not supplied evidence showing that his age, rather than his failing score on the requisite verbal exam, was the reason he missed out on the desired promotion. Assuming a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADEA, Tyburski failed to present sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that the purported harassment he experienced was severe or pervasive. Tyburski also failed to exhaust this claim regarding conduct that allegedly occurred at one facility, as he did not file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reporting that conduct. View "Tyburski v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

by
The Miller Act, 40 U.S.C. 3131, protects subcontractors against nonpayment for work performed on federal government construction projects by requiring the prime contractor to provide a payment bond on which the subcontractor can then make a claim for payment. A&C, a subcontractor on an air base project in Qatar, claims that it was not paid approximately $8.5 million for work it performed on the project, so it filed suit against the prime contractor’s two sureties, Zurich and The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania. As strict preconditions to payment, the Miller Act requires that subcontractors provide a notice of nonpayment within 90 days after the last day of work performed and then file suit within one year of the last date of work. The district court found that A&C missed both deadlines and granted the sureties summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Rejecting A&C’s argument that its last day of work was much later than asserted by the sureties and that it gave “too much notice,” the court strictly construed the requirement be “within 90 days.” View "A&C Construction & Installation Co., WLL v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Construction Law
by
Police dispatch reported three black males armed with guns selling drugs in front of a residence in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, a high-crime area; one of the men was wearing a white shirt, another wearing a red shirt, and the third wearing a boot-style leg cast. Officers Mukite and Collins responded. Passing Douglas Park, about one block from the reported address, they saw multiple black males wearing red and white shirts. The officers approached the group. Collins saw Wilson grab a bulge in the front pocket of his athletic/mesh shorts and sit down facing away from them, on the fringe of the group. Wilson wore a blue shirt. Collins walked around to see if Wilson was wearing a cast (he was not). Collins asked Wilson to stand up and made a corresponding hand gesture. Wilson rose and sprinted away instantly. Mukite chased and tackled him. While on the ground, Wilson indicated that he had a gun on his person. The officers searched him and found a loaded revolver. Wilson was charged as a felon in possession of a firearm, 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). The Seventh Circuit upheld the denial of his motion to suppress the gun. Considering the totality of the circumstances—and Wilson’s flight especially—Wilson’s seizure was supported by the officers’ reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity. View "United States v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
Kennedy-Robey was charged with fraud for operating a scheme to defraud the IRS and an unemployment insurance scheme. While awaiting trial, Kennedy-Robey was released on bond. She resumed her fraudulent activities. The government obtained an arrest warrant. Instead of appearing at the bond revocation hearing, Kennedy-Robey remained a fugitive for a few months. When they arrested Kennedy-Robey, officers found her to-do list, which read like a “how-to” guide for fugitives. Kennedy-Robey eventually pleaded guilty. Although the guidelines range was 210-262 months, the court sentenced her to 72 months’ imprisonment and ordered her to pay over $4.8 million in restitution. In 2017, Kennedy-Robey was released to a halfway house. Within weeks, Kenney-Robey filed a fraudulent automobile loan application and obtained a loan exceeding $30,000, which she used to purchase a Mercedes-Benz, and filed a fraudulent credit card application. Months later, she and another defendant purchased another car with funds obtained from another fraudulent loan application. Kennedy-Robey pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. The government sought an 18-month sentence, based on a guidelines range of 12-18 months. After considering Kennedy-Robey’s long history of unrepentant criminal conduct, the court imposed a 36-month sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court failed to consider either her mental health condition or the more lenient sentences received by defendants convicted of similar crimes and that the sentence was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Kennedy-Robey" on Justia Law

by
An Indiana prison disciplinary board concluded that Crawford had participated in an “unauthorized financial transaction” by telling Wolf, a fellow inmate, to send $400 to his mother, Crawford. Wolf sent the check, which Crawford cashed. Wolf told prison officials that the payment covered the cost of drugs that Crawford had supplied. The prison’s Code B-220 bans possessing materials for, or engaging in, “unauthorized financial transactions”. Section IX of the Inmate Trust Fund Policy supplies this definition of unauthorized financial transactions: “attempting or completing financial transactions, including the sending of monies from one offender to another or the sending of monies from the family/friends of one offender to another.” Crawford claimed that the payment was for a car that Wolf’s aunt and Wolf’s daughter were buying. The prison penalized Crawford by the loss of 30 days’ good-time credit. The district judge directed Indiana to restore the 30-day credit. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The phrase “financial transactions” is broad, but broad differs from inscrutable. The rule is sweeping, not vague. View "Crawford v. Littlejohn" on Justia Law

by
Wisconsin previously had registration deputies, who registered voters at places such as high schools. Municipalities could require landlords to distribute registration forms to new tenants. The state replaced these mechanisms with an electronic registration system that requires proof of residence in either electronic or hard-copy format, with special provisions for students in dormitories. To vote for an office other than President or Vice President, voters must have been residents for at least 28 days. Absentee ballots may be picked up in person, or the state will mail one; email and fax can be used to obtain a ballot in only a few circumstances. Wisconsin will reject an absentee ballot for spoilage, damage, or defective certification that is visible without opening the ballot. Voting a straight ticket is no longer possible. Photographic identification is necessary for in-person voting. People who lack the documents required to receive a photo ID may petition the state for assistance and a temporary receipt. After consolidating challenges, the Seventh Circuit held that the adjustments to the number of days and hours for in-person absentee voting, the state’s durational residence requirement, and the prohibition on sending absentee ballots by email or fax do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. The court vacated orders related to the one-location rule and the ID petition process. Wisconsin’s studentID provision is invalid. The court reversed an injunction requiring Wisconsin to implement an affidavit option. View "Frank v. Evers" on Justia Law

by
Alkhalidi was convicted of murder, robbery, and theft. He appealed, claiming that his attorney failed to advise him of a plea offer. The Indiana state court denied relief, holding Alkhalidi’s innocence claim strongly indicated he would not have accepted the plea deal. The state court also held that Indiana requires a defendant to admit a plea deal’s factual basis otherwise the trial court would be prevented from entering the plea. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Alkhalidi’s petition for habeas corpus relief. Alkhalidi is unable to show prejudice; he failed to show the state court’s decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law” or that the decision “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding,” 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). View "Alkhalidi v. Neal" on Justia Law

by
When Zhao gave birth to her son “S.,” he suffered an avoidable brachial plexus injury that severely and permanently impaired the function of his right arm. During her pregnancy and S.’s birth, Zhao was attended by an obstetrician employed by a federally supported grant clinic in southern Illinois, who is considered an employee of the U.S. Public Health Service under 42 U.S.C. 233(g), Zhao sued for medical malpractice under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The court found that the obstetrician had been negligent and awarded Zhao, on behalf of S., $2.6 million in lost earnings and $5.5 million in noneconomic damages. S. was not five years old at the time of trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the government’s argument that the calculation of S.’s future lost earnings was improperly speculative, given the uncertainties inherent in projecting a five‐year‐old’s career opportunities. The question may have been difficult, but there was no reversible error. The court took a reasonable approach to estimate the lost earnings award based on data provided in expert testimony. The government also challenged the award of non-economic damages as arbitrary and excessive in comparison to similar cases. The court could have provided a more detailed explanation of its comparative process, but its reasoning did not amount to reversible error. View "Zhao v. United States" on Justia Law