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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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  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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