ATF agent’s testimony supports gun conviction

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a man’s weapons conviction Tuesday, ruling that the expert testimony of an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives could be used to prove that a gun had crossed state lines.

In order to convict Joseph Brownlee of being a felon in possession of a gun in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(1), the government had to prove the .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol had been “shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.” The government presented the expert testimony of a special agent of the ATF who testified that the gun was manufactured in Connecticut and so it must have been transported by interstate commerce to get to Indiana.

She based her research on a search of an ATF database of information about the places where guns are manufactured, as well as a phone conversation she had with the manager of the Connecticut plant where she believed the gun was made. He told her it was his plant that made the gun.

Brownlee’s attorney didn’t question the ATF agent’s qualifications to give expert testimony and only asked her two “pointless” questions, according to Judge Richard Posner, who authored United States of America v. Joseph C. Brownlee, 13-2745.

“The government didn’t have to prove where the gun had been manufactured, only that it had not been manufactured in Indiana, a conclusion the expert had arrived at on the basis of her database searches before she talked to the manager,” Posner wrote in rejecting Brownlee’s claim the expert gave impermissible hearsay evidence in testifying to what the manager told her.

The 7th Circuit also rejected Brownlee’s claim that the manager of the plant should have been called to testify.

“The agent not only works in Indiana, but her job involves determining the state in which a gun is manufactured (or in which it is not manufactured — because, to repeat, it doesn’t matter where the defendant’s gun was manufactured so long as it was not manufactured in the state in which he possessed it). The manager of Tri Town Plastics’ plant has a different job, the performance of which would be disrupted if he had to fly to remote locations any time a person was being prosecuted as a felon in possession of a gun believed to have been manufactured in that plant. It’s no surprise that the use of expert testimony to prove that a gun has crossed state lines is the standard method of proof of that element of the crime of being a felon in possession—evidence accepted as valid by (so far as we have been able to determine) all courts,” Posner wrote.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.