Seventh Circuit

The Federal Docket

United States v. Thayer (7th Cir. July 2022)

Over a dissent, the Seventh Circuit vacated a district court’s order dismissing an indictment for failing to comply with SORNA. The Court held that, defining a “sex offense” through 34 USC 20911’s definition a “specified offense against a minor,” courts must apply a “circumstance-specific approach” focusing on the defendant’s actual conduct underlying the prior conviction, not a categorical approach. Judge Jackson-Akiwumi dissented, arguing that the language under 20911 was similar to other statutes that require analysis through a categorical approach.

United States v. Goliday (7th Cir. July 2022)

The Seventh Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for drug conspiracy after holding that the defendant’s guilty plea was not voluntary. At the change of plea hearing, the defendant had disputed the quantity of drugs imputed to him in the Government’s factual basis and indicated he did not understand the elements of conspiracy as opposed to his substantive drug charge.

United States v. Shaw (7th Cir. July 2022)

The Seventh Circuit vacated a defendant’s above-Guidelines prison sentence imposed upon his violation of supervised release. The Court concluded that the record showed the sentencing judge had improperly sentenced Shaw to prison for the purpose of rehabilitation, which is explicitly prohibited under 18 USC 3582(a).

United States v. King (7th Cir., July 2022)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of an inmate’s motion for compassionate release based on changes in the law that would have subjected him to a lower sentence. The Court reiterated its holding that courts cannot consider non-retroactive changes in the law in determining an inmate’s eligibility for a reduction, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Concepcion, dealing with another provision of the First Step Act.

Wilber v. Hepp (7th Cir. October 2021)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s order vacating the defendant’s conviction after the defendant argued that his due process rights were violated when he was visibly shackled and restrained in a wheelchair with a stun bracelet on his arm during his state trial. The Court held that, even if the restraints were necessary, there was no finding on the record that it was necessary for them to be visible, especially since the defendant’s alleged misconduct mostly took place outside the courtroom and involved “disrespectful” words and gestures outside the presence of the jury. The error was not harmless.

United States v. McClain (7th Cir. October 2021)

The Seventh Circuit reversed a trial court’s order under Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which had directed an inmate to return to prison after he had finished his sentence in a separate case. While the court had initially sentenced the defendant in two cases, and had ordered that he serve 18 months after finishing his first sentence, the court was inconsistent in its oral pronouncement and its written judgment. Errors by the court itself are not “clerical errors” under Rule 36, so Rule 36 was not applicable.

United States v. Wilks (7th Cir. October 2021)

The Seventh Circuit reversed a trial court’s bond revocation. The Court held, for the first time, that the standard of review for a revocation decision is an independent review with due deference to a trial court’s findings of fact. The Court held that the trial court here failed to make explicit findings by clear and convincing evidence or sufficiently state why detention was necessary under the circumstances.

United States v. Vizcara-Millan (7th Cir. September 2021)

The Seventh Circuit reversed a defendant’s drug conspiracy conviction and substantive conviction for distributing drugs. The Court held that the evidence equally supported a finding that the defendant was in a buyer-seller relationship with a DTO rather than a co-conspirator. The Court also held that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant constructively possessed meth found at his acquaintance’s house.

United States v. Hicks (7th Cir. October 2021)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for stealing money belonging to the U.S. under 18 USC 641. The defendant was a police officer who used his position to rob drug dealers, and on some occasions, the money he stole was planted by the FBI, which was investigating him. The Court held that the Government did not have to prove that the defendant knew the money belonged to the U.S.

United States v. Hible (7th Cir. September 2021)

The Seventh Circuit held that the deadline for filing a notice of appeal in a criminal case is measured from the date a district court denies a motion for reconsideration, not the date of a district court’s order on the underlying motion.

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