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7th Circuit affirms drug conspiracy judgments, cautions prosecution

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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.
 



 

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  1. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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