Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In 2001, Sherman died from gunshot wounds. When police arrived, Sherman lay on the ground with 50-60 people gathered around. Long was tried for first-degree murder. No physical evidence tied Long to the crime. The state presented four witnesses; two recanted at trial. In closing argument, the prosecutor made improper statements, resulting in a new trial. At Long’s second trial, the state again presented the four eyewitnesses. One maintained her identification of Long. Two, having previously recanted, continued to deny having seen Long shoot Sherman, despite their prior videotaped statements. The prosecutor failed to correct Irby when she claimed that she had not previously stated that her identification was coerced; defense counsel impeached that testimony. During closing arguments, the prosecutor made comments that no evidence was presented that another individual committed the crime and referenced the contents of a letter written by Irby that had not been admitted into evidence. The jury found Long guilty. His state court appeals and post-conviction petitions were unsuccessful. On rehearing en banc, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Long’s federal habeas petition, finding the prosecutorial misconduct claims procedurally defaulted and that Long had not shown a reasonable likelihood that Irby’s testimony or the closing argument prejudiced the outcome; and that Long’s ineffective assistance claim was without merit. “[W]hat occurred [Irby's testimony] may well have helped the defense rather than the prosecutor.” View "Long v. Pfister" on Justia Law

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Convicted of multiple counts of sex trafficking, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and attempted sex trafficking, 18 U.S.C. 1591(a) and 1594(c), Sawyer was sentenced to 50 years' incarceration. After unsuccessful appeals, Sawyer sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255, asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel, stating that “the Government offered the Petitioner a plea offer, which included a term of imprisonment of 15 years” and that counsel advised him to reject it because “the Government’s case against him was weak.” Sawyer attached affidavits from his mother and grandmother, in which they attest to discussing the plea offer with Sawyer. The government argued that Sawyer’s petition failed to provide sufficient evidence that the government made him an offer. The district court denied Sawyer’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, noting that Sawyer did not attach a proposed plea agreement or an affidavit from trial counsel regarding any agreement. The Seventh Circuit vacated. If he is able to prove on remand that the government did offer a plea deal, Sawyer will have to establish that his attorney’s advice was objectively unreasonable and that, with competent advice, he would have accepted the plea deal, but at this point in the proceedings, Sawyer has sufficiently alleged both of those required elements. View "Sawyer v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Saxon was convicted in Illinois state court of the 1995 first-degree murder of a 12-year-old girl, arson, and concealment of homicide. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed. After his state appeals were exhausted, Saxon sought habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. 2254, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. The state’s case included testimony from 15 witnesses, numerous stipulations and exhibits. The victim’s mother testifed that Saxon was at her house almost every day, and was there the night the girl disappeared. Saxon’s aunt testified that she had lived at the residence with the garage in which the victim’s burned body was found before the fire and that Saxon frequently visited. By the time police obtained a search warrant for a sample of Saxon’s blood in 2000, Saxon was serving a 10-year prison sentence following a conviction for the sexual assault of his nephew. Saxon’s blood sample showed that his DNA matched the DNA profile found on the sperm fraction found on the victim’s body. Eventually, Saxon admitted that he had sex with the victim. The evidence was sufficient to find Saxon guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes charged was not objectively unreasonable. View "Saxon v. Lashbrook" on Justia Law

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From 1986-2015, Forgue was a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer. Forgue alleges that, from 2012-2015, he was harassed by fellow police officers for adhering to CPD policy and procedure and for filing numerous internal complaints. Forgue filed suit against the city and individual officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for First Amendment retaliation, equal protection, civil conspiracy, and procedural due process, and related state law claims. He claimed, among other things, that he was denied a Retirement Card when he retired. Without one, Forgue cannot carry a concealed firearm, procure benefits such as health insurance, or find other employment in law enforcement. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Forgue’s complaints were made pursuant to his job responsibilities; he spoke as a public employee, not a private citizen, so Forgue’s speech is not entitled to First Amendment protection. The district court properly rejected Forgue’s equal protection class-of-one claim and his conspiracy claims. Reversing the dismissal of a procedural due process claim, the court stated that Forgue sufficiently alleged that he has a legitimate entitlement and cognizable property interest in receiving a Retirement Card. View "Forgue v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Sanders has been in solitary confinement for eight years, and the prison plans to keep him there for another ten. He has been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and other conditions that make him dangerous to others. Sanders alleged in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 that the isolation, heat, and restricted airflow in solitary confinement harm aggravate his psychological problems and his asthma. The filing fee in federal court is $400. Sanders asked for permission to litigate in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. 1915(b), which is unavailable if the prisoner has, on three or more occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury. Sanders conceded that at least three of his prior suits or appeals have been dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or failing to state a claim. The Seventh Circuit vacated the dismissal of his suit, citing “the exception to the exception.” Sanders argued that his mental condition disposes him to self-harm, that he has twice tried to commit suicide, and has engaged in self-mutilation. Sanders’s history, coupled with the prison’s diagnosis of his condition, make his allegations plausible. The court stated that a court cannot simply disregard such an allegation as self-serving. View "Sanders v. Melvin" on Justia Law

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In 1998 Haynes was convicted of 12 federal crimes and sentenced to life plus 105 years in prison. His direct appeal and a collateral attack under 28 U.S.C. 2255 failed. After the Supreme Court retroactively held that the residual clause in 18 U.S.C.924(e)(2)(B)(ii) is unconstitutionally vague in labelling as a violent felony a crime that “involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another,” the Seventh Circuit authorized Haynes to pursue another collateral attack. The district court concluded that Johnson implies the invalidity of the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. 3559(c)(2)(F)(ii), under which Haynes’s life sentences were imposed and concluded that Haynes must be resentenced. The court did not invalidate any of his convictions. Haynes argued that three of his 18 U.S.C. 924(c) convictions for use of a firearm in committing a crime of violence depended on a conclusion that interstate travel in aid of racketeering, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(2), is a crime of violence. The Seventh Circuit dismissed his appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The length of Haynes’ new sentences for Hobbs Act robbery may affect the appropriate length of his section 924(c) sentences. When a judge in a section 2255 proceeding orders a resentencing, that proceeding is not over, and the decision is not appealable until that resentencing has occurred. View "Haynes v. United States" on Justia Law

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Dearborn pled guilty to distributing crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) & 846.. In 2015, the Seventh Circuit remanded for correction of certain conditions of supervised release. In a second appeal, Dearborn argued that during resentencing the court should have reconsidered its earlier denial of a motion to suppress evidence. He claimed that, in describing the investigation in the search warrant application, the officer did not inform the warrant judge that one of the controlled buys might have occurred one day later than specified in the search warrant application; the police might have used an unduly suggestive procedure in obtaining an identification of Dearborn from an informant; the informants had criminal histories and received compensation for helping the police; and certain audio and video recordings referred to in the application were of poor quality. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that Dearborn waived that argument. The court noted that Dearborn did not ask to withdraw his guilty plea and that his arguments “could have been raised earlier” and were irrelevant to the re-sentencing proceedings. Dearborn has not shown that extraordinary circumstances required the district court to reconsider its earlier denial of a Franks hearing. View "United States v. Dearborn" on Justia Law

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In 2014, two Green Party members sought to appear on the Illinois general election ballot as candidates for state representative. Because the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1-1) deemed the Green Party a “new” political party in both districts in which they sought ballot placement, both were required to obtain nomination petition signatures equaling 5% of the number of voters in the prior regular election for state representative in their district. The signatures had to be collected in the 90 days preceding the petition deadline, with each petition sheet be notarized. Neither candidate met those requirements. In their suit under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. State ballot access laws seek to balance state interests with “the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs, and the right of qualified voters, regardless of their political persuasion, to cast their votes effectively.” The Supreme Court has never required a state to make a particularized showing of the existence of voter confusion, ballot overcrowding, or the presence of frivolous candidacies before the imposition of reasonable restrictions on ballot access. The signature and notarization requirements, even in conjunction with the 90‐day petitioning window and geographic layouts of the districts at issue, do not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendment. View "Tripp v. Scholz" on Justia Law

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Cook County criminal defendants could secure pretrial release on personal recognizance; execution of a full deposit bail bond, to be fully returned upon performance of the bond conditions; or execution of a 10% bail bond, 10% of which (the Fee) was retained by the state upon performance of the bond conditions (725 ILCS 5/110-7). In 2014, Platt was arrested and charged with murder. His bail amount was $2 million. Platt executed a bail bond of $200,000. After Platt’s acquittal, the Clerk returned $180,000—his 10% deposit less the 10% Fee of $20,000. In 2015, Illinois amended section 5/110-7 to cap the Fee at $100 in Cook County, effective January 1, 2016. The return of Platt’s bail deposit depended upon the satisfaction of his bond conditions, not upon his acquittal. Platt sued on behalf of a putative class of individuals who paid a Fee of more than $100 during five years preceding January 1, 2016, alleging that retention of the Fee: violated their due process rights, having no rational relationship to the cost incurred in administering bail bonds; violated their equal protection rights; violated the Illinois Constitution uniformity clause; and constituted unjust enrichment. The Seventh CIrcuit affirmed dismissal, reasoning that Platt did not challenge the process by which the Fee was imposed and alleged only disparate impact, not unequal treatment. The Fee bore a relationship to legitimate governmental interests. View "Platt v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Consolino is a Cook County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer and a Marine Reservist counterintelligence specialist. Beginning in 1999, Consolino was assigned to the Boot Camp, an alternative sentencing program for non-violent inmates. Consolino’s wife, Trzos, also worked at the Boot Camp, as an administrative assistant. Trzos filed a Shakman complaint that went to arbitration in 2012, asserting that she was transferred for political reasons. Shakman refers to consent decrees entered in an Illinois case challenging government "patronage" employment practices. Consolino testified on his wife's behalf. An arbitrator denied her claims. Around the same time, Consolino was seeking a two-year assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Based on a mistaken belief that Consolino had been approved for an open position, the FBI sent specifically requested Consolino for the task force. Consolino was subsequently told that the FBI rescinded its offer for failure to follow protocol. Consolino checked with the FBI and requested clarification from the Sheriff’s Office. Receiving no response, Consolino filed a complaint. An Assistant State’s Attorney ultimately concluded that Consolino’s complaint of retaliation was not well-founded. Seven months later, Consolino was reassigned to the jail. Consolino filed suit, alleging retaliation for engaging in protected speech because he testified in his wife’s hearing and later filed a grievance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Consolino produced no evidence that the defendants were personally involved in his transfer or aware of his testimony. View "Consolino v. Towne" on Justia Law