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7th Circuit affirms cross burner's convictions

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to uphold a Muncie man's convictions stemming from his burning of a cross in front of the home of a family with biracial children.

Kyle Milbourn was sentenced to 121 months in prison for convictions of interfering with housing rights of another person, intimidation, using fire to commit a felony, and witness tampering. Milbourn and Kyle Shroyer decided after an evening of drinking to build and burn a cross in the front yard of Paula Tracy and Phillip Thrash's home in March 2006. Paula's three children from a previous relationship, who are biracial, lived there along with their African-American grandfather. Shroyer was dating Tracy's half-sister at the time, whom he later married. The two even took pictures of the burning and told others what they had done.

In United States of America v. Kyle Milbourn, No. 08-2525, Milbourn appealed because he claimed there was insufficient evidence to support the finding he was motivated by the racial makeup of the people who lived in the home and that the cross was burned to intimidate or interfere with their right to live there.

In addition to the photographs and statements made by Milbourn, the jury could have deduced he knew biracial children lived there because Shroyer was dating Tracy's half-sister, wrote Judge Terence Evans. Also, several witnesses said they heard Milbourn make racist comments about blacks and that he said it would be cool to join the Ku Klux Klan.

"And the frosting on the cake was that he picked, of all things, a cross to burn," he wrote. "And not just any cross, but one he and Shroyer constructed, crudely to be sure, in a shed near the trailer where they had been drinking and dancing."

The government presented evidence of the family's feelings of fear and anger after the cross burning and that they sought counseling for their oldest child, who had witnessed the event. The family even moved out of the home because of the incident.

The Circuit judges also found the prosecutor's comments during closing arguments on how Milbourn aspired to join the KKK didn't result in prosecutorial misconduct. A witness had testified that Milbourn had said he thought about joining the KKK.

Milbourn also waived his argument that the District judge should have disregarded the statutorily required mandatory minimum 10-year-sentence for the use of fire in commission of a felony.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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