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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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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