Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Vasquez and Miguel, convicted child sex offenders, must register as sex offenders and comply with state restrictions on where they may live. A child sex offender may not knowingly live within 500 feet of a school, playground, or child-care center, 720 ILCS 5/11-9.3. A few years after their convictions, Illinois added child and group day-care homes to the 500-foot buffer zone. When the men updated their sex-offender registrations, the Chicago Police Department told them they had to move because child day-care homes had opened up within 500 feet of their residences and gave them 30 days to comply. The men sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that the statutory amendment imposed retroactive punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause; that applying the amended statute to them constituted an unconstitutional taking of their property; and that the statute is enforced without a hearing for an individualized risk assessment and is not rationally related to a legitimate state interest, in violation of their due process rights. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of the suit on the pleadings. The amended statute is neither impermissibly retroactive nor punitive. The Takings Clause claim was unexhausted and the amendment was adopted before they acquired their homes, so it did not alter their property-rights expectations. The procedural due process claim fails because there is no right to a hearing to establish a fact irrelevant to the statute. The law “easily satisfies rational-basis review.” View "Vasquez v. Foxx" on Justia Law

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Mitchell is a transgender person who has identified as a woman her entire life. In 2008, Mitchell received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. She was convicted of a crime and sent to Wisconsin’s Columbia Correctional Institution in 2011. Mitchell requested hormone treatment, triggering a multistep process that the Department of Corrections outlined in its then-new policy on Health Care Treatment of Gender Identity Disorder. It took DOC over a year to evaluate Mitchell’s candidacy for hormone therapy. DOC then refused to provide Mitchell with the treatment its own expert recommended, on the ground that Mitchell was within a month of release from the prison. Although DOC’s Mental Health Director encouraged Mitchell to find a community provider to prescribe her hormones, the terms of Mitchell’s parole actually prohibited her from taking hormones or dressing as a woman. Mitchell sued. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the district court prematurely rejected some of Mitchell’s claims. Persons in criminal custody are entirely dependent on the state for their medical care, so prison officials have a constitutional duty to provide inmates with the care they require for serious medical needs. Prison staff cannot wait for an inmate’s sentence to expire before providing necessary treatments; state officials may not block a parolee from independently obtaining health care. The condition must be serious enough to trigger constitutional protection; otherwise, the nature of the disorder is irrelevant. View "Mitchell v. Kallas" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Norweathers was charged with transporting child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(1) and possessing a computer containing images of child pornography, section 2252A(a)(5)(b). The FBI had executed a search warrant at an Illinois business, where Norweathers worked and found approximately 50 images of child pornography on a desktop computer at Norweathers’ workstation. They obtained a warrant to search an email account with the username “tame181@yahoo.com,” which had sent two emails containing child pornography. Before trial, the government filed a notice of intent to offer evidence of other bad acts--an email exchange between tame181@yahoo.com and another individual in which they discussed drugging and having sex with young boys-- to prove identity, intent, and motive. Norweathers argued that the uncharged emails were impermissible propensity evidence, and that their probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. The court held that they were admissible, to weaken Norweathers’ anticipated defense that a different person used his account to distribute pornographic material. FBI agents testified that Norweathers waived his Miranda rights; stated that he viewed and traded child pornography; and provided agents with his usernames and passwords. Norweathers’ counsel rejected a stipulation to redact and “sanitize” the uncharged emails before presenting them to the jury. The jury was instructed to consider the evidence only to decide the identity, motive, and knowledge of the person who sent the charged emails. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence to 250 months’ imprisonment. View "United States v. Norweathers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Wallace was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole in 2006. A few months after he entered prison, he assaulted a guard. He has been in solitary confinement ever since. Wallace lodged a proposed complaint against prison officials and the Illinois Department of Corrections, alleging that his prolonged isolation exacerbates his mental illness, increases his risk of suicide, and violates his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is unable to pay the civil filing fee and sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. 1915. The district court denied the motion because Wallace had three “strikes” under the Prison Litigation Reform Act for frivolous cases and did not qualify for the statutory exception for a prisoner who is “under imminent danger of serious physical injury.” The Seventh Circuit vacated. Wallace has alleged sufficiently that he faces imminent danger of serious physical injury and has not yet received three “strikes” under the Act. Wallace cannot attend educational or religious classes, visit the law library used by the general population, or earn income from a prison job. Despite taking antidepressants for PTSD he experiences depression, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, and auditory hallucinations. He has attempted suicide at least five times, including three times during his years in segregation. Wallace’s motion to intervene in another prisoner’s suit under FRCP 24 did not qualify for a strike. View "Wallace v. Baldwin" on Justia Law

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On November 6, 2011, Lovelace and another inmate fought over pencils. Officers handcuffed Lovelace and walked him to a van to be taken to the segregation unit. Lovelace kicked through the van window. Lovelace claims that officers carried him out of the van and slammed his face into the ground. Lovelace was then placed inside another van, where officers continued to beat him. At the segregation unit, Officer Smith punched him in the ribs. In a cell, correctional officers removed Lovelace's clothes and continued the assault, leaving Lovelace for several hours without clothing or bedding. Lovelace testified that his eye was swollen shut, that his ribs were bruised, and that he had back pain. He presented evidence from his medical providers. Dr. Bochenek—a psychologist who treated Lovelace at Dixon on January 4, 2012—testified that that Lovelace “discussed his frustration with, what he perceives of as, the lack of attention to the grievance he filed ‘when the C/O’s [correctional officers] kicked my ass.’” The district court redacted the statement—“the C/O’s kicked my ass”—as inadmissible hearsay. Sullivan, a fellow inmate and Lovelace’s only witness to the alleged beating, was unavailable for trial, so designated portions from his deposition were read to the jury. The court excluded Sullivan’s deposition statements that elaborated on his ability to testify truthfully. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the defendants, upholding those evidentiary rulings. View "Lovelace v. McKenna" on Justia Law

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Indiana uses “drug courts” to tackle substance-abuse problems more flexibly than traditional sentencing regimes, Ind. Code 33-23-16-5. These non-traditional court programs have been shown to reduce recidivism rates in some jurisdictions. The Clark County Drug Treatment Court (DTC) was not a success. Under the stewardship of Judge Jacobi, participants frequently languished in jail for weeks and even months as “sanctions” for noncompliance with program conditions, without the procedural protections required by Indiana law, such as written notice, a right to counsel, or a right to present evidence. DTC staff made arrests despite a clear lack of authority to do so. After these abuses were revealed, program participants filed a putative class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Judicial Center shut down the program. The district court denied class certification, dismissed some claims, and resolved most others on summary judgment. A final claim was settled. The plaintiffs failed to win relief. On appeal of due process claims against three defendants and Fourth Amendment claims against two defendants, the Seventh Circuit stated that it had “no doubt that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated,” but plaintiffs did not establish that these defendants were personally responsible for the systemic breakdown. View "Hoffman v. Knoebel" on Justia Law

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Moose solicited investors with a stock tip; instead of investing all the $680,000 he received from 16 investors, Moose invested only $200,000. The remaining $480,000 he took for himself. Without a plea agreement, Moose pleaded guilty to defrauding investors in violation of the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The district court gave him a below-guideline sentence of two years in prison plus two years of supervised release. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the prison sentence and the length of the supervised release term, but remanded for the limited purpose of considering several conditions of supervised release that had not been adequately explained. The court rejected Moose’s challenges to the loss amount the district court used in calculating his guideline sentencing range and the fraud guideline’s treatment of loss amounts more generally. Though Moose admitted that he pocketed the $480,000, he argued for a loss figure of just $70,000, claiming to qualify for the discount based on returning stolen property before the crime was detected. View "United States v. Moose" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against TCSPP, alleging breach of contract and negligence after the school disciplined plaintiff for posting an image to her personal Instagram account that TCSPP considered offensive. Plaintiff later alleged in her amended complaint claims related to her dismissal from the school for plagiarism. The Seventh Circuit held that plaintiff could not meet Illinois's high burden for student plaintiffs in relation to the decision to dismiss her for plagiarism, and summary judgment was proper as to that issue. Consequently, summary judgment was also appropriate concerning plaintiff's entitlement to living expenses and tuition as damages. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding three motions in limine. View "DiPerna v. Chicago School of Professional Psychology" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After pleading guilty in 2007 to possessing digital images of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. 2252A(a)(5)(B), Canfield was sentenced to 78 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release, with conditions requiring that Canfield participate in sex offender treatment, avoid unsupervised contact with minors, and not possess “any material, legal or illegal, that contains nudity or alludes to sexual activity or depicts sexually arousing material.” While on supervised release, he violated the conditions by viewing adult pornography on unauthorized smartphones. Canfield consented to 180 days of home confinement and an additional year of supervised release. Canfield was discharged from his sex offender treatment program for smoking marijuana, holding an infant without disclosing his offender status to the infant’s mother, and for again watching adult pornography. The district court then revoked Canfield’s supervised release and sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, followed by five more years of supervised release. The Seventh Circuit vacated three special supervised release conditions: a requirement that he notify third parties about the risks his offender status poses; a condition that he undergo drug testing and substance abuse treatment at the direction of his probation officer; and a prohibition on all access to sexually explicit material. The court upheld a ban on using the Internet to access sexually explicit material. View "United States v. Canfield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Defendants were charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine, plus six other counts. The court gave a multiple conspiracies jury instruction and refused to give a proposed “meeting of the minds” instruction. The jury convicted the Defendants on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting claims that the government lacked sufficient evidence to prove the conspiracy between them and Rodriguez, a cooperating defendant and that the district court erred by refusing to give a “meeting of the minds” jury instruction. Mistrust, deceit or dishonesty amongst the Defendants did not negate their shared common objective of distributing cocaine. View "United States v. Masias" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law