Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Lund and 30 others were charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy resulted in overdose deaths of five individuals, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). Lund pleaded guilty but denied responsibility for two deaths, arguing that he had withdrawn from the conspiracy before those deaths. The district court judge rejected that argument and sentenced him in accordance with the 20-year mandatory minimum (“death results” enhancement). The Seventh Circuit affirmed. His sentence became final in 2013. In 2016, Lund filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 based on changes in the law occurring after his conviction. In Burrage, the Supreme Court held that finding a defendant guilty of the “death results” penalty “requires proof ‘that the harm would not have occurred in the absence of—that is, but for—the defendant’s conduct.’” This but-for causation rule applies retroactively. Lund argued that under Burrage, he is actually innocent of the “death results” enhancement because the heroin he provided to two individuals was not the but-for cause of their deaths. The district court found that there was no statutory basis to find his petition timely; it was filed more than a year after the Supreme Court decided Burrage and more than a year after the evidence he presented could have been discovered, The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even assuming actual innocence can be premised on a change in the law, Lund cannot take advantage of the exception because he rests both his actual innocence claim and his claim for relief on Burrage. View "Lund v. United States" on Justia Law

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Rainsberger was charged with murdering his elderly mother and was held for two months. He claims that the detective who built the case against him, Benner, submitted a probable cause affidavit that contained lies and omitted exculpatory evidence. When the prosecutor dismissed the case because of evidentiary problems, Rainsberger sued Benner under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court denied Benner’s motion, in which he argued qualified immunity. Benner conceded, for purposes of his appeal, that he knowingly or recklessly made false statements in the probable cause affidavit, arguing that knowingly or recklessly misleading the magistrate in a probable cause affidavit only violates the Fourth Amendment if the omissions and lies were material to probable cause. The Seventh Circuit rejected that argument. Materiality depends on whether the affidavit demonstrates probable cause when the lies are taken out and the exculpatory evidence is added in. When that is done in this case, Benner’s affidavit fails to establish probable cause to believe that Rainsberger murdered his mother. Because it is clearly established that it violates the Fourth Amendment “to use deliberately falsified allegations to demonstrate probable cause,” Benner is not entitled to qualified immunity. View "Rainsberger v. Benner" on Justia Law

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In 1977, Peoria police officers arrested 14-year-old Savory for the rape and murder of Cooper and the murder of Cooper’s 14-year-old brother. Savory claims that officers subjected him to an abusive 31-hour interrogation; fabricated evidence; wrongfully coerced a false confession; suppressed and destroyed exculpatory evidence; fabricated incriminating statements from alleged witnesses; and ignored evidence pointing to other suspects. Savory was tried as an adult. His conviction for first-degree murder was overturned. He was convicted again in 1981 and was sentenced to 40-80 years in prison. Savory exhausted state remedies; he unsuccessfully sought federal habeas corpus relief. He repeatedly sought clemency and DNA testing. He was paroled in 2006. In 2011, the governor commuted the remainder of Savory’s sentence, terminating his parole but leaving his conviction intact. In 2015, the governor issued a pardon that “acquitted and discharged” Savory’s conviction. Less than two years later, Savory sued the city and police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Under Supreme Court precedent (Heck), Savory could not bring suit until he obtained a favorable termination of a challenge to his conviction; he had to file suit within two years of accrual. The defendants asserted that the Heck bar lifted when Savory’s parole was terminated in 2011. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the claims as untimely. Savory’s claims, which closely resemble malicious prosecution claims, could not accrue until “the conviction or sentence ha[d] been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal … or ... by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” View "Savory v. Cannon" on Justia Law

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Chicago police officers stopped a Toyota after it sped out of an alley. The driver fled, leaving several passengers. Officer Morlock pursued the driver. The Toyota rolled and wedged itself against Flaherty’s squad car. Passenger Grant tried to escape but his legs got stuck between the cars. Flaherty ordered the other passengers to “quit moving.” Brown, age 13, attempted to flee but stopped hanging out of a window. Officers Proano and Habiak arrived. Proano had his weapon cocked and aimed at the Toyota. Seconds later, passenger Bates reached over the console, put the car in reverse, and pressed the gas pedal. The Toyota moved and a BB gun fell out. No one was in its path. Habiak picked up the gun. Proano fired shots as the Toyota pivoted and rolled into a light pole. Ten of Proano’s 16 bullets entered the Toyota; one hit Bates’s shoulder, others grazed his face. Two bullets hit another passenger in his leg and foot. No other officer fired shots. Proano reported that he shot because of an “imminent threat of battery.” Proano did not identify the BB gun as a contributing factor. Proano was convicted for willfully depriving the passengers of their right to be free from unreasonable force, 18 U.S.C. 242. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Proano’s arguments regarding the admission of training and policy evidence and the jury instruction on willfulness. The court upheld the denial of a “Garrity” motion. Under Garrity, when a public official must choose between cooperating in an internal investigation or losing his job, his statements during the investigation cannot be used against him in a criminal trial. Federal prosecutors were never exposed to Proano’s protected statements. A dashcam video, other witnesses, and police reports all provided independent bases from which they could have learned the facts. View "United States v. Proano" on Justia Law

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Mitchell enrolled in an Elgin Community College online criminal-justice course. The instructor, an Elgin police officer, eventually advised her that she was failing the course. Soon after, the police department received anonymous threats and a harassing email targeting the officer. Another officer swore out a complaint accusing Mitchell of electronic communication harassment. She was arrested, immediately bonded out, and two years later was acquitted. Mitchell sued the city and several officers seeking damages for wrongful prosecution. A district judge dismissed the case, concluding that the federal claims were either untimely or not cognizable. Mitchell appealed. The Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Manuel v. Joliet, overturned circuit precedent that defeated Mitchell’s Fourth Amendment claim below, clarifying that pretrial detention without probable cause is actionable under the Fourth Amendment, via 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Court did not decide when the claim accrues. A Seventh Circuit panel then held that a Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful pretrial detention accrues when the detention ends. The court did not determine the timeliness of Mitchell’s claim because the parties did not adequately address whether and under what circumstances a person who is arrested but released on bond remains “seized” for Fourth Amendment purposes or what conditions of release, if any, were imposed on Mitchell when she bonded out. View "Mitchell v. City of Elgin" on Justia Law

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The inmate sued Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility (CIF) and Indiana Department of Corrections officials, alleging that they prevented him from participating fully in Moorish Science Temple of America services held at the CIF, in violation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. The district court screened the complaint under 28 U.S.C. 1915A; dismissed claims against two defendants on Eleventh Amendment grounds and against an officer who had not participated personally in any of the cited actions; and allowed damages claims against the remaining defendants to proceed. Following discovery, the court granted the remaining defendants summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on First Amendment claims for damages. The court remanded in part; the district court misread the complaint, which clearly seeks injunctive relief as well as damages. The court should have read the inmate’s pro se free exercise claim as seeking injunctive relief under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. On remand, the court first must determine whether the free exercise claim and RLUIPA claims are moot, then consider whether injunctive relief is warranted. There is no basis for injunctive relief on the establishment clause claims. View "Neely-Beytarik-El v. Conley" on Justia Law

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An April 2016 Chicago Police Accountability Task Force report indicated that the Chicago Police Department’s “response to violence is not sufficiently imbued with Constitutional policing tactics.” In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report concluding that the Chicago Police Department exhibits a pattern or practice of the unconstitutional use of force. In August 2017, the state sued the city, alleging that the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policies and practices violate the federal constitution and Illinois law. Two days later, the parties moved to stay the proceedings while they negotiated a consent decree. Almost immediately, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 7, publicly opposed any consent decree, citing fears that the decree might impair its collective bargaining rights. For months, the Lodge monitored the ongoing negotiations and met informally with the state’s representatives. The Lodge nonetheless waited until June 2018, to file a motion to intervene in the suit. The district court denied the motion to intervene as untimely. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Lodge knew from the beginning that a consent decree might impact its interests but delayed its motion for nearly a year; its allegations of prejudice are speculative. View "Illinois v. Chicago" on Justia Law

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During a traffic stop, Kentucky officers found marijuana and a gun in Sheperd’s car. He pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts for criminal forfeiture. The judge applied an Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) enhancement based on his prior Kentucky burglary convictions and sentenced Shepherd to the mandatory minimum 15 years in prison, 18 U.S.C. 924(e). The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Though his case originated in Kentucky, Shepherd is in an Indiana federal prison. After his challenges to his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 were rejected by the Kentucky district court and the Sixth Circuit, Shepherd filed a 28 U.S.C. 2241 motion in Indiana. A section 2241 habeas petition may be allowed if the prisoner can show “that the remedy by motion [under section 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” The Seventh Circuit did not address whether Shepherd’s plea agreement waived his right to bring the collateral challenge or whether section 2241 should be available to him and if so, which precedent should apply. The court resolved the case on the merits: the Sixth Circuit held recently that Kentucky second-degree burglary qualifies as a predicate offense for an ACCA enhancement. View "Shepherd v. Julian" on Justia Law

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Lee is serving sentences totaling 100 years’ imprisonment. A state judge found that Lee and Manley forcibly abducted L.M., struck and raped L.M., and displayed a pistol to make her more cooperative. L.M. escaped and ran naked to a house. Police took pictures of L.M.’s bloody face. Lee, the only defense witness, said that L.M. entered the car voluntarily and that he did not touch her sexually—though before trial Lee said that he and L.M. had consensual oral sex. The state judge found that L.M.’s testimony was “very credible” and that the pictures showing her injuries, and the testimony of the person who opened the door to L.M., negated the defense of consent. Lee’s convictions were affirmed on direct and collateral review. Lee’s federal petition under 28 U.S.C. 2254 claimed ineffective assistance of counsel. He asserts that before trial his lawyer received five affidavits that corroborated Lee’s story or provided exculpatory details, but that counsel did not interview the affiants. In Lee’s post-conviction proceedings the state judiciary did not hold an evidentiary hearing, concluding that the affidavits were not necessarily inconsistent with guilt. The federal district judge held that the state court’s decision was not unreasonable. The Seventh Circuit vacated. It is impossible to say that Lee has “failed to develop [in state court] the factual basis of” his claim. The absence of evidence about what the trial would have been like, had the affiants testified, is attributable to the state court's failure to hold a hearing. View "Lee v. Kink" on Justia Law

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Mars was the getaway driver to an armed robbery by Snyder and Higgins-Vogt. Days later, Mars’s body was found. While in jail on robbery charges, Higgins-Vogt never met with his appointed attorney but requested to meet with Brown. Brown was employed by a private entity, providing “counseling.” Higgins-Vogt had met Brown while incarcerated as a juvenile. Brown held no licenses in the field of mental health. Higgins-Vogt told Brown that he murdered Mars. Brown promised confidentiality but stated that she wanted the victim’s family to have closure. Higgins-Vogt eventually told Brown that he wanted to meet with Detective Patton about the weapon. After Higgins-Vogt waived his right to have his attorney present, the parties (including Brown and the State's Attorney) moved into an interview room so the questioning could be recorded. Higgins-Vogt provided the gun's location but claimed the information came from Snyder. Brown did not contradict Higgins-Vogt or state that he had confessed but elicited incriminating admissions. Police recovered the gun. Later, Higgins-Vogt told a Correctional Officer that he wanted to confess to a murder. On an inmate request form, Higgins-Vogt wrote: “I want to confess to the Paige Mars murder.” He told Brown that the confession was triggered by a conversation with his girlfriend. During a second interview with Detective Patton, Higgins-Vogt confirmed that he knew his rights and confessed to killing Mars. Higgins-Vogt later unsuccessfully moved to suppress the statements, arguing that Brown pressured him to confess. Brown denied any role in assisting law enforcement. Higgins-Vogt pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 years’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed while expressing its “strong disapproval” of Brown’s role at the jail. Higgins-Vogt, separate and apart from his interactions with Brown, voluntarily chose to confess to the murder. View "United States v. Higgins-Vogt" on Justia Law