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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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  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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