ILNews

7th Circuit affirms drug conspiracy judgments, cautions prosecution

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Nine defendants who were convicted in federal court of drug conspiracy for distributing methamphetamine and marijuana will continue to serve their sentences after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments but issued cautions for federal prosecutors.

In U.S. v. Jwuan L. Moreland, Antrio B. Hammond, Wesley S. Hammond, Susie A. Smith, Herbert D. Phipps, David J. Pitts, Bradley S. Shelton, Michael D. Weir and Timothy Bailey, 11-2546, 11-2552, 11-2632, 11-2633, 11-2696, 11-3146, 11-3319, 11-3321, 11-3367, the court affirmed convictions and sentences ranging from 110 months to life in prison. The appeal arose from cases tried by Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division.

Writing for the panel, Circuit Judge Richard Posner warned that “a prosecutor’s putting all his eggs in the conspiracy basket can be a risky tactic,” particularly when one defendant’s role in the larger drug-dealing operation was questionable.

Herbert Phipps argued that he was merely a buyer of methamphetamine and that his intent to deal was not established. “The government was skating on thin ice by failing to charge him with a substantive drug offense, for which the evidence was much stronger, rather than just with conspiracy,” Posner wrote.

“Nevertheless his conviction must stand. The jury heard evidence that he indeed sold as well as consumed meth that he bought from the drug ring in quantity on credit. … At trial he testified that this was a ruse to obtain a large quantity of meth for his personal use, but the jury didn’t have to believe him,” Posner wrote.

The opinion rejects individually the arguments raised by each defendant in affirming the judgments against them, but Posner also wrote, “The jury instructions were repetitive and confusing, and included an open-ended list of factors from which membership in a conspiracy could be inferred.”

Posner also took issue with the designation of a Drug Enforcement Administration witness’s testimony as both expert and non-expert. “Using terms like ‘lay witness’ and ‘expert witness” and trying to explain to the jury the difference between the two types of witness is inessential and, it seems to us, ill advised,” he wrote.
 



 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  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?

ADVERTISEMENT