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7th Circuit panel opines practical tips

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has some practical advice for criminal law attorneys who go before federal judges: have handy a copy of federal criminal procedure rules, particularly those involving plea discussions at sentencing, and don't be afraid to correct or point out omissions to a judge.

In a decision from the federal appellate court today, a three-judge panel also has an important practical note for trial judges: give defendants a chance for allocution before sentencing them.

Using both pieces of advice, the court panel affirmed two firearm-related convictions today in U.S.A. v. Ivory Griffin, No. 07-2442, but remanded to U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp in South Bend on grounds that the judge violated Griffin's right to a meaningful allocution by announcing the 146-month prison sentence before allowing the defendant to speak.

All sides agreed that vacating the sentence and remanding for a new sentencing is appropriate, and the 7th Circuit cited caselaw as well as the federal criminal procedure rules in ordering that.

Griffin was arrested in 2002 when state police stopped him for speeding on the Indiana Toll Road and found a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition in his trunk. He later pleaded guilty to charges of possessing an unregistered firearm and possessing a firearm after having been previously convicted of a felony; Judge Allen sentenced him to 146 months imprisonment on both counts.

During the plea colloquy involving Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, the judge did not specifically advise Griffin that he'd have the right to present evidence or compel witness attendance, or that the court had authority to depart from the applicable sentencing guidelines range.

Neither Griffin's attorney nor the government counsel informed the court that it had overlooked some portions of the colloquy, the Circuit Court noted in its decision. They have a professional duty to speak up if the court forgets a portion, the federal court pointed out.

"This is not the first time that we have addressed a challenge to a Rule 11 colloquy when counsel failed at the plea hearing to inform the district court of its omissions," Judge Michael Kanne wrote. "And it is difficult to understand why counsel here did not help the court avoid correctable omissions. Confusion over Rule 11's requirements should not be the reason; (it) is not new, unclear, or even difficult to access. Not only should the counsel for the government, as well as for the defendant, be familiar with Rule 11 before even walking into a plea hearing, but it would also be a good practice for them to have a copy of the Rule handy so they can follow along with the court's colloquy. That way, if the court overlooks one of the Rule's provisions, counsel can bring the omission to the court's attention and avoid any later grief."

Judge Kanne added, "We would like to think that any sentencing judge would not only correct the omissions that he or she made while conducting the colloquy, but would appreciate the opportunity to do so."

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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