Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Davis, an Illinois prisoner suffering from kidney disease, received dialysis on a Saturday. He subsequently told a prison nurse that his mind was fuzzy and his body was weak. Both complaints were similar to side effects he had experienced in the past after dialysis. The nurse called Dr. Kayira, the prison’s medical director, who asked her whether Davis had asymmetrical grip strength, facial droop, or was drooling—all classic signs of a stroke. When she said “no,” Dr. Kayira determined that Davis was experiencing the same dialysis-related side effects as before rather than something more serious. He told the nurse to monitor the problem and call him if the symptoms got worse. Dr. Kayira did not hear anything for the rest of the weekend. On Monday morning he examined Davis and discovered that Davis had suffered a stroke. Davis sued, alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment and a state-law medical-malpractice claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Kayira. The deliberate-indifference claim failed because there is no evidence that Kayira was aware of symptoms suggesting that Davis was suffering a stroke. The state-law claim failed because Davis lacked expert testimony about the appropriate standard of care. A magistrate had blocked Davis’s sole expert because he was not disclosed in time, Davis never objected to that ruling before the district court. View "Davis v. Kayira" on Justia Law

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Segal was convicted in 2004 of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, making false statements, embezzlement, and conspiring to interfere with operations of the IRS. His company, NNIB, was convicted of mail fraud, making false statements, and embezzlement. Segal and his wife, Joy, divorced after his conviction. After Segal served prison time, he was ordered to forfeit $15 million and his interest in NNIB. NNIB was ordered to pay restitution and a fine. The government initially restrained $47 million worth of assets of Segal and NNIB. Joy intervened and settled her claims with the government, which released to her about $7.7 million in restrained assets. Joy relinquished all further claims—save one contingent future interest. Liquidation proceedings continue. Segal and the government agreed on a court-approved settlement that fulfilled Segal’s $15 million personal forfeiture obligation. Segal later sought to rescind or modify that agreement. The district court denied his attempt and denied Joy’s attempt to intervene in the liquidation proceedings because her contingent future interest is not yet ripe. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Michael’s unconscionability argument, noting that he previously won strict enforcement of the settlement agreement, preserving his right to repurchase an interest in the Chicago Bulls. He is judicially estopped from pursuing this challenge. The court also rejected a “windfall” argument and, noting the number of appeals, stated that if there are further proceedings, the parties and their counsel will be subject to Rule 11. View "United States v. Segal" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Greco threatened to put a pipe bomb in his ex-girlfriend’s car. She obtained a protective order. He put the bomb in her car. It exploded, injuring her and destroying her car. Greco pleaded guilty to manufacturing and possessing an unregistered pipe bomb. 26 U.S.C. 5861(d) and 5861(f). The government informed the court that this was the third time in 10 years Greco had detonated a pipe bomb. Greco's 180-month prison sentence ended in 2015. Greco was to remain on supervised release until April 2018. One condition of that release was that he would “not commit another federal, state or local crime.” He violated that condition when he posted threatening Facebook messages about another ex-girlfriend despite a court order not to contact her. A federal judge approved a warrant for Greco’s arrest in March 2018. Seven months later another judge revoked his supervised release and ordered a new term of imprisonment, with a new term of supervised release. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the court lacked jurisdiction to revoke Greco's supervised release because the warrant was not supported by probable cause. The judge received a report explaining how Greco had broken the terms of his release by violating state law, which was enough to establish probable cause. The court remanded for clarification of the conditions the court imposed for his second term of supervised release. View "United States v. Greco" on Justia Law

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In March 2009 Truitt joined the Moorish Science Temple of America, which calls itself a sovereign “ecclesiastical government” and teaches that neither the states nor the federal government have authority over its members. Members purport to hold something akin to diplomatic immunity. In late 2009, Truitt filed seven nearly identical tax returns, each falsely claiming that she was entitled to a $300,000 refund. The IRS identified six returns as fraudulent, but for unknown reasons, approved one and sent her a check for the full amount. Within weeks the IRS demanded that she return the funds. She did not respond but spent the money on jewelry, a condominium, tickets to sporting events, and an investment. Truitt was convicted of making false claims against the United States, 18 U.S.C. 287 and theft of government funds, 18 U.S.C. 641. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Truitt’s challenge the exclusion of her expert witness, psychologist Dr. Fogel, who proposed to testify that Truitt was a member of a “charismatic group”—a cult-like organization that indoctrinates its members. Truitt argued that she lacked the requisite mens rea for the crimes. The judge properly excluded the testimony under “Daubert” and Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 704(b), reasonably concluding that Fogel lacked the relevant expertise and his methods were not reliable. View "United States v. Truitt" on Justia Law

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On September 28, 2000, Camm, a former Indiana State Trooper, arrived home and discovered his wife lying on the garage floor, having been shot in the head. His children, Brad and Jill, were dead in his wife’s vehicle. Camm thought Brad might be alive, so he reached over Jill’s body, pulled Brad out, and began performing CPR. Jill’s blood ended up on his T-shirt. Camm called the Indiana State Police. Floyd County prosecutor Faith arrived and decided to hire an Oregon private forensics analyst, specializing in blood-spatter analysis, a subjective field he admits is only partly scientific. The analyst's assistant, Stites, arrived to document evidence and take photos. Stites is not a crime scene reconstructionist, has never taken a bloodstain-analysis course, and has almost no scientific background. Stites told investigators that the blood on Camm’s shirt was “high-velocity impact spatter” (HVIS), which occurs only in the presence of a gunshot. Stites identified HVIS bloodstains on the garage door, shower curtains, breezeway siding, a mop, and a jacket. Only the stain on the T-shirt was actually blood. Stites also stated that the blood was manipulated by a high pH cleaning substance. Faith and the investigators also found a prison-issue sweatshirt in the garage with a nickname written on the collar. The Indiana Department of Corrections has a database of inmate nicknames, but no one tried to match the nickname to a former prisoner. A palm print on Kimberly Camm’s car was not run through the system for a match. Camm’s attorney had the sweatshirt tested, uncovering a DNA profile. Faith agreed to run the profile through CODIS and stated that nothing came up; he never actually ran the test. At trial, Stites gave credentials and made statements that were indisputably false. Camm was twice convicted but was acquitted after a third trial. The DNA, nickname, and palm print had, by then, identified the actual killer. Camm sought damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for the 13 years he spent in custody. Reversing the district court, the Seventh Circuit held that Camm presented enough evidence for trial on the Fourth Amendment claim, as it relates to the first probable-cause affidavit. A trial is also warranted on aspects of the Brady claim: whether some defendants suppressed evidence of Stites’s lack of qualifications and their failure to follow through on a promise to run a DNA profile. View "Camm v. Faith" on Justia Law

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Chazen was convicted of possessing a firearm as a felony and was sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(1), which mandates a minimum 15-year sentence if a defendant unlawfully possesses a firearm and has three prior convictions for a serious drug offense or violent felony, which “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another” or is “burglary, arson, or extortion.” At the time, the definition included a residual clause, which encompassed any felony that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” In 2015, the Supreme Court held the residual clause void for vagueness. Chazen has felony convictions under Minnesota law for second-degree assault, second-degree manufacture of a controlled substance, escape from custody, and second-degree burglary. After an unsuccessful appeal and 28 U.S.C. 2255 habeas petition, Chazen sought relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of relief. The government conceded that Chazen’s controlled substances conviction did not qualify as a serious drug offense. Minnesota's burglary statute covers more conduct than generic burglary and does not qualify as an ACCA predicate violent felony. Relief was available under section 2241 because, at the time of Chazen’s 2013 section 2255 petition, precedent foreclosed any contention that his Minnesota burglary convictions did not qualify as violent felony predicates. View "Chazen v. Marske" on Justia Law

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Khan construed a lawsuit concerning a traffic accident as “senseless provocation”; believed “noise pollution around [his] house” to be “organized persecution,” for which he promised retaliation; and believed Mayor Emanuel “doomed Chicago.” In Facebook posts, Khan threatened to “kill,” “shoot,” “hunt,” “murder,” and “put bullets in” college students, “vulnerable individuals,” people walking dogs, “high net worth individual[s],” and witnesses that “get [in] the way.” He claimed a specific Chicago neighborhood as his “free kill zone,” planned to “purchase a [G]o[P]ro camera, ... record the killings, and upload them.” Khan drove for Uber and posted messages about “dry run[s]” and carrying a loaded gun during shifts for “necessary murders.” He posted photos of himself holding those guns and “sw[ore] to Allah ... that I will ... murder in the next 30 days, which corresponded to Khan's plan to fly to Pakistan. Khan was indicted for making interstate threats to injure others, 18 U.S.C. 875(c). The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction, rejecting challenges to the indictment and the sufficiency of the evidence. The district court was not required to instruct the jury that it must find that Khan intended to communicate a threat; that the intended victim received it; and that it caused the victim to feel threatened. The court properly refused to suppress evidence of a gun found in Khan’s car and to suppress other evidence on the theory that the government did not produce evidence of an anonymous tip. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law

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In 1996, Haynes robbed six stores at gunpoint. Three robberies were in Illinois and three were in Iowa. Haynes was charged with the Illinois robberies under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951. For each robbery, Haynes also was charged with a count under 18 U.S.C. 924(c) for using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. The Iowa robberies were charged under section 1952(a)(2), which makes it a crime to travel in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a crime of violence and then to attempt or carry out a crime of violence. The indictment alleged that Haynes accomplished each 1952 violation “by committing the offense of robbery” under section 1951; each charge had a corresponding 924(c) firearm charge. Convicted on all counts, Haynes was sentenced to life in prison for each robbery based on 18 U.S.C. 3559(c)(1) because he had two prior Illinois burglary convictions that were treated as “serious violent felonies.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed Haynes’ section 924(c) convictions because the indictment and jury instructions, taken together, required jurors to find each element of the Hobbs Act robberies—crimes of violence—at the center of the nested charging scheme with section 1951 inside section 1952(a)(2) inside section 924(c). Haynes unsuccessfully argued that section 1952(a)(2) was not “divisible” and that the jury did not necessarily find him guilty of the underlying Hobbs Act robberies. View "United States v. Haynes" on Justia Law

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Barber and Chipps used a crow‐bar to break into Dutchman Hunting Supplies in Shipshewana, Indiana, and steal 15 handguns. They set off the alarm during the robbery and were easily identified by shop employees because they had scouted out Dutchman earlier that day. In addition, Barber discussed the robbery on Facebook Messenger. Barber was indicted on charges of stealing firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer, possessing firearms as a felon, and possessing stolen firearms, 18 U.S.C. 922(u), (g)(1), and (j). Chipps cooperated with the government and testified at trial against Barber. In addition, the government introduced the Facebook messages and cell‐location data for Barber’s phone, placing him near Dutchman at the time of the robbery. The jury convicted him. The court sentenced him to 210 months’ imprisonment, reflecting a two‐level enhancement in his offense level for obstruction of justice based on a message scratched on a courthouse bench: TELL ANTHONY CHIPPS TO THINK B4 H GET ON THERE N LIE. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the admission of the Facebook records, cell‐location data, and a certificate indicating that Dutchman had a firearms license and the application of the obstruction enhancement. The court rejected a Confrontation Clause challenge and an authentication argument View "United States v. Barber" on Justia Law

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Williams, a Racine County Jail pre-trial detainee, suffers from osteoarthritis, for which he has received Social Security disability insurance since 1982. Although the Jail typically provides inmates with a single mattress to sleep on, when the jail places inmates in disciplinary segregation it does not allow them to keep their mattresses in their cells during the daytime hours. Medical staff provided Williams with double mattresses to sleep on as an accommodation for his osteoarthritis and allowed him to keep a single mattress in his cell during the day. Months later, the medical staff concluded that Williams’s medical condition no longer required a second mattress. During the following months, Williams had several disciplinary issues and served time in segregation without a mattress accommodation. The jail staff conducted hearings to evaluate Williams’s write-ups. Williams refused to participate. The jail’s medical staff continued to address Williams’s medical complaints and Williams continued to correspond with officers concerning his grievances. Williams appealed one of the disciplinary determinations. The district court screened Williams’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 complaint and allowed claims alleging retaliation, harassment, conspiracy to fabricate disciplinary tickets, and medical deliberate indifference to proceed but later granted the defendants summary judgment, finding that Williams failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Williams never made a timely appeal of his grievances; the defendants did not provide him with objectively unreasonable medical care. View "Williams v. Ortiz" on Justia Law