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Defendant was charged with aggravated battery of a child, heinous battery, and aggravated domestic battery. The indictments alleged that defendant immersed his six-year-old stepson, J.H. in hot water. The court admitted J.H.’s out-of-court statement to his nurse at Stroger Hospital. The state also offered expert testimony from Dr. Fujara, a specialist in child abuse pediatrics and from White, a retired investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Defendant acknowledged that he falsely identified himself at the hospital. The trial court found him guilty. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in admitting J.H.’s statement identifying defendant as the offender under the hearsay exception for statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment and held that the double jeopardy clause barred retrial because the evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, reasoning that J.H.’s hearsay statement was the only identification evidence placing defendant in the bathroom when the injury occurred. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the double jeopardy clause does not bar retrial. Dr. Fujara offered persuasive expert testimony that J.H.’s burns resulted from forcible immersion in hot water, ruling out alternative causes and rebutting defendant’s argument that J.H. may have been burned accidentally as a result of a faulty water heater. Defendant was the only adult present in the house at the time J.H. was injured and did not seek prompt treatment. View "People v. Drake" on Justia Law

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The circuit court found section 25(b)(2) of the Drug Dealer Liability Act, 740 ILCS 57/25(b)(2), facially unconstitutional. The Act provides a civil remedy for persons injured as a result of illegal drug use. Persons who may sue for damages include: a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or sibling of the individual drug user, an individual who was exposed to an illegal drug in utero, an employer of the drug user, a medical facility, insurer, governmental entity, employer, or other entity that funds a drug treatment program or employee assistance program for the individual drug user or that otherwise expended money on behalf of the drug user, or a person injured as a result of the willful, reckless, or negligent actions of a drug user. Under section 25(b)(2), a plaintiff may seek damages from “[a] person who knowingly participated in the illegal drug market if: (A) the place of illegal drug activity by the individual drug user is within the illegal drug market target community of the defendant; (B) the defendant’s participation in the illegal drug market was connected with the same type of illegal drug used by the individual drug user; and (C) the defendant participated in the illegal drug market at any time during the individual drug user’s period of illegal drug use.” The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the section is unconstitutional and severable. Section 25(b)(2) requires no relationship between the parties whatsoever for liability to attach and violates substantive due process protections. View "Wingert v. Hradisky" on Justia Law

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Webb was charged with misdemeanor unlawful use of weapons (UUW) statute (720 ILCS 5/24-1(a)(4)) after he was discovered carrying a stun gun in his jacket pocket while in his vehicle on a public street. Greco was charged under the same section after he was found carrying a stun gun in his backpack in a forest preserve, a public place. No concealed carry permit is available for stun guns. Both defendants moved to dismiss, arguing section 24-1(a)(4) operated as a complete ban on the carriage of stun guns and tasers in public and was, therefore, unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The circuit court and Illinois Supreme Court agreed with defendants. Stun guns and tasers are bearable arms under the Second Amendment and may not be subjected to a categorical ban. Section 24-1(a)(4) constitutes a categorical ban. View "People v. Webb" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit dismissed petitioner's appeal of the district court's denial of his motions for leave to file an amended motion for appointment of independent counsel and for appointment of independent supplemental or substitute counsel. The court held that the motions were not appealable under 28 U.S.C. 1291 because petitioner's proceedings under 28 U.S.C. 2254 were still pending. View "Crain v. Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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Eason pleaded guilty as a felon in possession of a firearm. The statutory range for such a violation is zero to 10 years’ imprisonment but under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1), a defendant convicted under 18 U.S.C. 922(g) who has three prior convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months. Eason had five prior felony convictions for the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. Eason argued that an ACCA “serious drug offense” is defined as “an offense under State law, involving manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance,” and that, under the Tennessee statute, his prior offenses could have been based on no more than the purchase of an ingredient that can be used to produce methamphetamine with reckless disregard of its intended use. The district court agreed with Eason. Without the ACCA enhancement, Eason was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment, the top of the guideline range. The Sixth Circuit reversed. Purchasing ingredients needed to make methamphetamine, and consciously disregarding an unjustifiable risk regarding how those products will be used, “indirectly,” if not “directly,” connects with methamphetamine’s “production, preparation, propagation, compounding or processing” and is a serious drug offense under ACCA. View "United States v. Eason" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order correcting defendant's sentence as to one of his four counts of conviction following his partially successful motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. 2255. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declined to conduct a full resentencing and instead corrected petitioner's sentence only as to the count of conviction affected by Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015). Even if the panel were to conclude that the counts were grouped for sentencing—something the record did not reflect here—the decision to restructure a defendant's entire sentence when only one of the counts of conviction was found to be invalid was discretionary and not mandatory. The panel held that, in any event, it was evident from the record that petitioner's counts of conviction were not actually grouped for sentencing in any material way that might have led the district court, in its discretion, to unbundle them for resentencing. Finally, the panel held that petitioner was not entitled to a certificate of appealability on his two remaining issues. View "Troiano v. United States" on Justia Law

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Consistent with the Sixth Amendment's jury trial guarantee, defendant's sentence for conspiracy to import methamphetamine could not be sustained solely by his admission that he conspired to import marijuana but it was "reasonably foreseeable" that methamphetamine would be imported. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court plainly erred by imposing a sentence that exceeded the statutory maximum for conspiracy to import marijuana. Accordingly, the panel vacated defendant's sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Jauregui" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child and two counts of abusive sexual conduct of a child in Indian country. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of a prior sexual assault, commenting to the child witness "to try to answer the questions so that you can get off the stand," and limiting the testimony of a defense witness regarding a financial dispute between defendant and one victim's parents and his beliefs regarding defendant's reasons for giving gifts to the victim. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion for a variance and by imposing a 540 month term of imprisonment. View "United States v. Keys" on Justia Law

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Colon used his Indianapolis furniture store and a mall property rental business as a front to hide his criminal operation--buying large quantities of cocaine and heroin from Arizona and reselling the drugs to Indiana dealers. Convicted of drug conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements in a bankruptcy proceeding, Colon was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Colon’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence of money laundering. Colon did not separate the financial aspects of his drug dealing from the financial aspects of his legitimate businesses. A reasonable jury could have inferred from the differential between Colon’s mall income and drug proceeds, the scope of his drug operation, his comingling of proceeds, and the overwhelming evidence showing that the mall was merely a front to enable and conceal his drug trafficking, that Colon was laundering money and that each cash deposit included at least some drug proceeds. While the district court erred in calculating his advisory sentencing range by applying leadership enhancements under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1, because Colon was only a middleman, the error was harmless. The sentencing transcript, read as a whole, demonstrates that the court would have imposed the same sentence regardless of the enhancements. View "United States v. Colon" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by the State seeking to overturn a conviction it recently obtained, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court denying the State’s Utah. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion in the underlying criminal proceeding, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to adjudicate the State’s motion and that rule 60(b) provided the mechanism through which the State may bring its challenge. After final judgment had been entered against Bela Fritz, the State returned to the district court claiming Fritz had misled it about his identity. The State filed a motion under rule 60(b) seeking to vacate the conviction, sentence, and judgment. The district court denied the motion, concluding that following imposition of a valid sentence, a district court loses subject matter jurisdiction over a criminal case and that the State needed to proceed under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act. The State filed this petition for extraordinary relief asking that the Supreme Court direct the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the State’s motion for relief under rule 60(b). The Supreme Court exercised its discretion and granted the writ, thus vacating the order denying the State’s motion and instructing the district court to exercise jurisdiction over the matter. View "State v. Honorable Ann Boyden" on Justia Law