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Circuit Court vacates drug sentence

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a man's drug conviction, but vacated his sentence because it wasn't confident the District Court judge properly sentenced him.

In United States of America v. Anthony D. Edwards, No. 08-1124, Anthony Edwards appealed his conviction of distributing 5 grams or more of crack and his 108-month prison sentence. Edwards argued his admissions made during a second statement shouldn't have been admitted because he wasn't given Miranda warnings again during his second round of questioning. Approximately 45 minutes earlier, he had signed the waiver form during the first round of questioning and said he understood his rights.

He also claimed evidence of a prior criminal activity by him shouldn't have been admissible under Rule 404(b).

The Circuit Court found the time lapse between Edwards being advised of his rights and his second round of questioning not to be long enough to make the Miranda warnings "stale," wrote Judge Richard Posner. Edwards didn't rebut a presumption that he should remember his right to remain silent even if some time had elapsed between his receiving the warnings and undergoing the questioning in which he gave inculpatory statements.

In terms of the evidence of the prior criminal activity being admitted, the Circuit Court focused on whether the evidence was relevant to an issue in the case, and if so, whether the probative weight of the evidence was nevertheless substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect or by its propensity to confuse or mislead the jury. The testimony by Beagle, the government informant, about previous drug buys between him and Edwards bolstered the government's case that it had arrested Edwards during the course of a drug sale.

"All prior-crimes evidence is prejudicial; otherwise there would be no need for Rule 404(b). But the judge did not abuse his discretion in ruling that the admission of the evidence in this case passed muster, for without it the jury might have thought that Beagle had fabricated a planned drug sale in order to curry favor with the government," Judge Posner wrote.

In terms of Edwards' sentence, the Circuit Court noted the District Court judge gave no reason for his belief that $765 found on Edwards during his arrest was proceeds from selling crack. Edwards claimed the money was from selling a van, although there was no evidence to prove his story. The money also could have come from previous sales to Beagle, which would have led to double counting in estimating the amount of crack Edwards had sold.

The District judge had added 12.75 grams to the amount of crack that other evidence showed Edwards had either sold or possessed with the intent to sell. He could have assumed that without basing the assumption on the $765, and still sentenced Edwards to the same guidelines range. However, the Circuit Court isn't confident he wouldn't have imposed a lower sentence if he had drawn no inference from the money, so it vacated Edward's sentence and remanded for a further sentencing hearing.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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