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7th Circuit ends use of inextricable intertwinement doctrine

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a defendant’s perjury conviction and in doing so, concluded that resorting to inextricable intertwinement is unavailable when determining a theory of admissibility.

Jamarkus Gorman challenged his perjury conviction after testifying falsely before a grand jury. Gorman’s brother was the subject of drug trafficking and money laundering investigations. Police learned his brother had a Bentley and wanted to seize it as proceeds of the brother’s illegal drug activity. Police met with Gorman at his gated condominium complex and asked if he knew of the Bentley and whether it was stored in the condominium complex’s garage. Gorman said he didn’t know of a Bentley, and lied to police about which parking spots in the garage he owned. After police left because they didn’t see the Bentley, Gorman had several people help him tow the car out of the garage and abandon it. They also pried open the trunk which contained money used to pay accomplices.

When testifying before the grand jury as part of the indictment process for the money laundering charges, Gorman said he never had a Bentley in his garage. Before his perjury trial, the District Court admitted certain witness statements about the car theft and his retrieving money out of the trunk. The District Court concluded the evidence was admissible under the inextricable intertwinement doctrine.

In United States of America v. Jamarkus Gorman No. 09-3010, the Circuit Court spent time analyzing the admission of the evidence and overruled its prior line of cases that allowed for admission using the inextricable intertwinement doctrine.

“There is now so much overlap between the theories of admissibility that the inextricable intertwinement doctrine often serves as the basis for admission even when it is unnecessary,” wrote Judge Michael Kanne. “Thus, although this fine distinction has traditionally existed, the inextricable intertwinement doctrine has since become overused, vague, and quite unhelpful.”

They found the District Court didn’t need to resort to the inextricable intertwinement doctrine to admit the evidence. Even though it was admitted using that doctrine, it made no practical difference to the outcome of admissibility. The judges found the evidence was properly admitted as direct evidence instead and the probative value of that evidence was not substantially outweighed by any unfair prejudicial effect on Gorman.

They also found a little merit in Gorman’s argument that he never “had” the Bentley because he didn’t own it, so he couldn’t have lied on the stand.

“We agree initially with Jamarkus that “to have” has more than one meaning,” wrote Judge Kanne. “But what Jamarkus ignores is that our precedent dictates that even when a question or answer is ambiguous, a conviction may still be upheld if a jury has been called upon ‘to determine that the question as the defendant understood it was falsely answered….’”

There was ample evidence of conduct that is consistent with Gorman’s possession of the Bentley, including his storage of the vehicle and implicit claims he owned the car.
 

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