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

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Lund, a reporter for the Rockford Scanner, heard, by police scanner, of multiple traffic stops in Midtown. He did not have a driver’s license, so he rode a motorized bicycle to Midtown to take photographs. He suspected a prostitution sting operation. An officer noticed Lund and radioed the team. Officers Welsh and Campbell knew of Lund's previous anti‐police speech. They directed Lund to “move on.” Lund asked if he was breaking any laws. Campbell informed him that he was not, but that his continued presence would constitute obstruction of a police detail and result in arrest. Lund started his bicycle and called out, loudly, “goodbye officers.” Concerned that Lund might post pictures on social media while the sting operation was ongoing and create a danger for unarmed undercover officers, the officers followed Lund and arrested him for driving the wrong way on a one‐way street, operating a vehicle without insurance, obstructing a police officer, felony aggravated driving on a revoked license, and operating a motor vehicle without a valid drivers’ license. News stories listed Lund’s name as an arrestee in the prostitution sting. The charges against Lund were dismissed. Lund sued the officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution under Illinois law, citing the Supreme Court’s intervening "Nieves" (2019) holding, that, in most cases, probable cause to arrest defeats a claim of retaliatory arrest. There was probable cause to arrest Lund. View "Lund v. City of Rockford" on Justia Law

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Police, checking on Thomas, who was unconscious in her car, called for paramedics. While waiting, they found a methamphetamine pipe in the car. At the hospital later, Thomas stated that she had used methamphetamine; that she and her live-in boyfriend obtained it together; that she kept her meth pipes at home; and that she had two children, a one-year-old and a 14-year-old. She was initially confused about where they were. The officers requested a welfare check. Caya answered the door, apparently under the influence of drugs. Sergeant Miller knew that Caya was on extended supervision for a felony conviction and subject to Wisconsin Statutes section 302.113(7r), which authorizes officers to search the person, home, or property of an offender released to extended supervision if the officer has reasonable suspicion that the offender is involved in criminal activity or is violating a condition of his supervision. Caya told the officers that he and Thomas were clean and that Thomas’s children were with their grandmother in Dubuque. The officers initiated a search and found Thomas’s one-year-old child in the living room; they later recovered drug paraphernalia, cash, several loaded rifles and handguns, and 350 grams of meth. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Caya's motion to suppress. Criminal offenders on community supervision have significantly diminished expectations of privacy because of the government’s strong interest in preventing recidivism. The Supreme Court has held that a law-enforcement officer may search a person on parole without any suspicion of criminal activity. A search under section 302.113(7r), which requires reasonable suspicion, is constitutionally permissible. View "United States v. Caya" on Justia Law

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Chaparro was convicted based on viewing child pornography in 2013, transmitting child pornography in August 2014, and viewing child pornography on a smartphone in November 2014. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The court rejected challenges, which were not raised in the district court, to the sufficiency of the evidence that he was the person using the electronic devices and to allegedly improper remarks made by the prosecutor. The court acknowledged that “the government’s case could have been stronger as to the identity of the devices’ user.” The computer forensics led investigators to a home, not to an individual, and little evidence showed that Chaparro resided at the address before December 2014. Any improper rebuttal comments did not affect Chaparro’s substantial rights. The admission of Chaparro’s statement to pretrial services that he lived at the address was an error; pretrial services information is “confidential” and its admission is specifically prohibited “on the issue of guilt,” 18 U.S.C. 3153(c)(1), (3). Chaparro’s lone witness, his uncle, testified that Chaparro did not live at the address where the crimes were committed until just before his arrest. The court allowed the testimony of the pretrial services officer for impeachment. Assuming an exception exists under section 3153(c)(3) for other forms of impeachment, applying that exception to include specific contradiction by a statement from someone other than the witness is contrary to the protections Congress enacted. View "United States v. Chaparro" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Winfield confessed to shooting Garrett. Winfield was convicted of attempted murder. Winfield was also accused of killing Stovall in the same shooting but was acquitted on that charge because no credible witness had placed Winfield at the scene of the crime and his confession did not mention Stovall. The judge rejected Winfield’s argument that his confession was coerced and his “half-hearted” alibi defense. On appeal, Winfield raised one unsuccessful sentencing argument. Illinois state courts, on post-conviction review, concluded that trial counsel’s presentation of Winfield’s alibi was not so deficient that it violated the Constitution; they did not meaningfully address the performance of appellate counsel. On federal habeas review, the district court concluded that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), did not apply because the ineffective assistance claim had not been adjudicated on the merits in state court. It considered the claim without any deference to the state courts and found appellate counsel had rendered ineffective assistance by omitting an argument that Winfield’s confession was uncorroborated. The Seventh Circuit held that Winfield is not entitled to relief. Winfield cannot overcome the deference applied to the state court’s finding that trial counsel performed reasonably because Winfield never told counsel that he was at home at the time of the shooting. The Constitution did not obligate Winfield’s appellate counsel to discover and present a complex and novel corpus delicti argument that may not have succeeded. View "Winfield v. Dorethy" on Justia Law

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Godinez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846, and to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(i). The prosecution notified the court under 21 U.S.C. 851 that Godinez had a prior Ohio conviction for possession of cocaine. The district court determined that this prior state conviction made Godinez eligible for a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment rather than the otherwise applicable five-year mandatory minimum. The Seventh Circuit vacated the Sentence, citing the First Step Act of 2018, 132 Stat. 5194 enacted after the signing of Godinez’s plea agreement but before his sentencing. By failing to recognize the changes implemented by the Act, including the heightened thresholds that must be met for a court to impose increased mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses, the district court premised its sentencing calculations on a mandatory minimum that was twice what it should have been. The oversight constitutes plain error and requires resentencing. View "United States v. Godinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Young promoted the prostitution of high-school-aged minors, taking some of the money that they were paid for sex. Young showed the minors the website Backpage.com and taught them how to post advertisements for “escort services,” sometimes taking revealing photos and posting them himself. Young set the hourly rates, reserved the hotels, and provided the victims with condoms and cell phones. He provided housing for one victim and drove the victims to and from their calls. Sometimes he personally demanded sex from them. He was indicted under 18 U.S.C. 1591. Weeks before Young’s trial was set to begin, Young elected to represent himself. The government presented substantial evidence of Young’s guilt. Young testified in his own defense, admitting that he had been trying to start an adult escort business, that he knew some of the victims, and that he gave them rides. He denied facilitating their prostitution and posting their ads, stating that he did not know that they were minors. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Young's convictions and 21-year sentence. Rejecting arguments the district court erred in instructing the jury on “interstate commerce” and that the evidence was insufficient on that element, the court noted the evidence of interstate advertising. The court did not abuse its discretion in denying Young’s third motion for a continuance. Young was warned of the consequences of representing himself. The court upheld the decision to exclude evidence of the minor victims’ past sexual conduct. View "United States v. Young" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Schillinger, a Wisconsin prisoner, was assaulted by another inmate as the prisoners were returning to their housing unit after recreation. He suffered a fractured skull, broken teeth, cuts, and other serious injuries. Schillinger sued three guards under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district judge screened the complaint and permitted Schillinger to proceed on a claim that the officers failed to take preventive action after learning of hostility between Schillinger and his attacker during the recreation period shortly before the attack. The judge later ruled that Schillinger had not exhausted his administrative remedies on that claim and entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Schillinger’s arguments that the judge should have gleaned from his complaint two additional factual grounds for a failure-to-protect claim: that the officers did not respond fast enough to an alarm about a medical emergency on his unit once the attack was underway and they stood by without intervening to stop the attack. Upholding the exhaustion ruling, the court reasoned that while Schillinger pursued a complaint through all levels of the prison’s inmate-complaint system, he never mentioned the claim he raised in litigation: that the officers were aware of threatening behavior by the attacker before the assault and failed to protect him. View "Schillinger v. Kiley" on Justia Law

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Gish pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide for the 2012 stabbing death of Litwicki, the mother of his children. He appealed, claiming that his attorney provided ineffective assistance by failing to investigate an involuntary intoxication defense. Police found Gish delirious on the night of the killing. He claimed that rare side effects from taking prescription Xanax affected his ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected the claim. Gish initiated federal habeas proceedings. The district court held an evidentiary hearing but denied relief, finding that defense was so unlikely to succeed that Gish still would have pleaded guilty. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While trial counsel admitted that he never assessed a Xanax-based involuntary intoxication defense, that defense had no reasonable prospect of success. Gish told a nurse that he sold his pills and no longer had any and told a detective that he last took Xanax “[a] couple days” earlier. The police found no trace of Xanax in Gish’s home. Even if Gish had taken Xanax the day of the homicide, it was unlikely that he was the rare patient who would have experienced such extreme effects; his expert on that point lacked credibility. Gish confessed to how he went about killing and abusing Litwicki and had a motive--he suspected Litwicki was cheating on him and would take his kids away View "Gish v. Hepp" on Justia Law

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Worman mailed his supervisor a pipe bomb, which the Postal Service intercepted. Worman was convicted of mailing an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 1716), possessing an unregistered destructive device (26 U.S.C. 5861(d), 5845(f)), transporting an explosive device (18 U.S.C. 844(d)), and possessing and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)). Worman’s mailing of a bomb constituted the predicate crime of violence for the section 924(c) charge, which carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment consecutive to any sentence imposed on another count. Worman was sentenced to 360 months for the 924(c) offense and one month for the other offenses. The judge explained that Worman would not be released until he was 84 and lacked any criminal history. The Eighth Circuit vacated; its precedent prohibited judges from considering a mandatory consecutive sentence when granting a downward variance. The court resentenced Worman to 168 months for the pipe‐bomb offenses and 360 mandatory, consecutive months for the 924(c) offense. In 2016, Worman filed an unsuccessful pro se motion for a new sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Johnson” decision. In 2017, the Supreme Court held, in “Dean,” that a sentencing court may use its discretion when calculating an appropriate sentence for a felony serving as the basis for a section 924(c) conviction. Worman sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief, despite recognizing that Dean provided Worman a basis for a sentencing reduction. Worman does not meet either exception authorizing a second habeas motion. Dean was a decision of statutory law, not an interpretation of the Constitution, and does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. View "Worman v. Entzel" on Justia Law

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Manriquez-Alvarado, a citizen of Mexico, has repeatedly entered the U.S. illegally. He was ordered removed in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017, each time following a criminal conviction. He was found in the U.S. again in 2018 and was sentenced to 39 months' imprisonment for illegal reentry. 8 U.S.C. 1326(a), (b)(2). All of the convictions for reentry rest on the 2008 removal order. Manriquez-Alvarado argued that this order was invalid because immigration officials never had “jurisdiction” to remove him. His “Notice to Appear” did not include a hearing date. In 2018, the Supreme Court held (Pereira) that a document missing that information does not satisfy the statutory requirements. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss. Pereira identifies a claims-processing doctrine, not a rule limiting immigration officials' jurisdiction. Older removal orders are pen to collateral attack if the alien exhausted any administrative remedies that may have been available; the deportation proceedings improperly deprived the alien of the opportunity for judicial review; and the order was fundamentally unfair, 8 U.S.C.1326(d). In 2008, Manriquez-Alvarado stipulated to his removal, waiving his rights to a hearing, administrative review, and judicial review. The statute does not ask whether administrative and judicial remedies would have been futile. It asks whether they were available. Manriquez-Alvarado’s removal was the result of his criminal conduct; he lacked permission to enter the U.S. at all. It is not unfair to order such an alien's deportation. View "United States v. Manriquez-Alvarado" on Justia Law