Seventh Circuit

The Federal Docket

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.

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

The Seventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence for initiating cyber attacks against his former employer. The Court held that suppression was not warranted where agents monitored the defendant’s internet traffic through a pen register for IP addresses, which was not meaningfully distinguishable from a pen register for phone numbers.

Roderick Lewis v. Dushan Zatecky (7th Cir. April 2021)

In a 2-1 opinion, the Seventh Circuit reversed the denial of Roderick Lewis’s 2254 motion and remanded his case for re-sentencing. The Court held that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer at sentencing only said he was “going to defer to Mr. Lewis if he has any comments. I don’t have anything to add.” The Court further held that this was one of those rare instances where prejudice is presumed pursuant to SCOTUS’s decision in U.S. v. Cronic, since trial counsel’s silence at sentencing “went beyond a failure to conduct adversarial testing; it was an announcement of abandonment.”

United States v. Anthony Jordan (7th Cir. March 2021)

The Seventh Circuit reversed a district court’s revocation of the defendant’s supervised release and 6-month sentence. Reviewing the district court’s decision under the Court’s “supervisory power,” the Court held that the district court did not adequately address the defendant’s explanation for his non-criminal, unintentional violations, and it did not properly explain its sentencing decision in accordance with the 3553(a) factors.

Jeffery Bridges v. United States (March 7th Cir. 2021)

The Seventh Circuit remanded a defendant’s 2255 motion for an evidentiary hearing, holding that the defendant had made a sufficient showing that he may have received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his lawyer’s failure to argue that his Hobbs Act robbery was not a crime of violence under the career offender provision of the sentencing guidelines. While the Seventh Circuit had not yet decided whether Hobbs Act robbery was a crime of violence at the time of the defendant’s sentencing, other circuits had, the categorical approach under the Guidelines was well-known, and this was enough to warrant at least a hearing to determine whether the defendant’s counsel failed to reasonably investigate the issue before the defendant’s sentencing.

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