7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Criminal – Kidnapping/Ransom Demand/Sentence
United States of America v. Tyrone Reynolds
In order to enhance a criminal sentence on the basis of a ransom demand, that demand must be conveyed to a third-party, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held.
Tyrone Reynolds challenged two sentencing guideline enhancements imposed following convictions of kidnapping and other offenses: a four-level enhancement for being the “leader or organizer” of the criminal activity, and a six-level enhancement for making a ransom demand during the crime. He received a life sentence.
Reynolds and seven other men drove from Chicago to Gary in order to rob Glenford Russell of his money and marijuana. Not believing that $15,000 was all Russell had, they tied him up and beat him. Later, the men drove to Chicago with Russell, believing that Russell could get them additional marijuana. Russell fled in Chicago and the eight men were later arrested.
Two of the men and Russell fingered Reynolds as the ringleader, pointing out he was the main one to interrogate Russell, Reynolds divvied up the money, and that he had decided the men would go to Chicago with Russell to get more drugs.
“The evidence was simply overwhelming that Reynolds oversaw the scheme and had greater relative responsibility than the other participants,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote.
But the judges ordered Reynolds resentenced because his enhancement for making a ransom demand isn’t supported by the evidence. “Ransom” isn’t defined in the guidelines, U.S.S.G. Section 2A4.1(b)(1), nor does the commentary shed any light on its definition. They concluded that Section 2A4.1(b)(1) may be applied only if kidnappers’ demands for “money or other consideration” reach someone other than the captured person.
The men who robbed and kidnapped Russell did not demand something from a third-party in exchange for his release. They only demanded the drugs or money from Russell to release him.
“Section 2A4.1(b)(1) is a substantial adjustment, and additional punishment is warranted when demands reach third parties because those who are contacted will experience great stress and may attempt a rescue, escalating the threat of violence,” Williams wrote. “But when a kidnapping is conducted without the knowledge of anyone except for the victim, the scope of the crime and risk of harm to others, while undoubtedly extensive, is nonetheless not as great.”
“Finally, we find it telling that although no appellate court has considered whether § 2A4.1(b)(1) requires the communication of demands to third parties, we have not found a single appellate decision where the adjustment had been applied to a defendant who did not intend for his demands to reach a third party,” she wrote.
Civil – Sentence/Career Offender
Royce Brown v. John F. Caraway, Warden
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s habeas petition, finding his prior conviction of arson in the third degree in Delaware doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence under U.S.S.G. Section 4B.1. As such, his current sentence should be reduced to reflect he isn’t a career offender.
Royce Brown was convicted in Delaware of one count each of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm by a felon in 1996 and classified as a career offender based in part on his prior arson conviction. Now incarcerated in Indiana, Brown filed a pro se habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. Section 2241 contending that under Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008), that conviction doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence under Section 4B1.1. The District Court dismissed the petition sua sponte because “the savings clause embodied in 2255(e) requires a claim of actual innocence directed to the underlying conviction, not merely the sentence.”
The 7th Circuit found that the District judge erred in concluding that challenges to a sentence are categorically barred under Section 2241. Brown is entitled to relief under that section because under Begay, his arson in the third degree conviction under Delaware law doesn’t qualify as “generic” arson under the enumerated crimes clause of the career offender guideline, nor is it covered by the residual clause, Judge Joel Flaum wrote.
The judges ruled that provided other (In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 1998)) conditions are present, a petitioner may utilize the savings clause to challenge the misapplication of the career offender guideline, at least where the defendant was sentenced in the pre-Booker era (543 U.S. 220 (2005)).
The judges sent the case back to the District Court to reduce Brown’s 360-month sentence.
Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, who did not sit on the panel deciding this case, wrote separately that the 7th Circuit’s holding that combines Davenport with Navarez v. United States, 674 F.3d 621 (7th Cir. 2011), “puts us in conflict with at least two circuits, as the panel acknowledges, with no other circuit on our side” in that the savings clause of Section 2255(e) doesn’t permit a prisoner to bring in Section 2241 petition a guidelines miscalculation claim that is barred from being presented in a Section 2255 motion.
“Notwithstanding what I have said, Davenport and Narvaez enjoy support in this circuit. I appear to be the only judge who doubts their soundness. It would therefore be pointless to sit en banc. Resolution of the conflict belongs to Congress or the Supreme Court. That is why I did not call for a hearing en banc following the panel’s circulation under Circuit Rule 40(e),” he wrote.
Indiana Supreme Court
Criminal – Testimony/Child Molestation
Gerald P. VanPatten v. State of Indiana
Ruling that statements two 6-year-olds made regarding alleged molestation to a nurse should not have been admitted under the hearsay exception in Ind. Rule of Evidence 803(4), the Indiana Supreme Court reversed two child molesting convictions and ordered a new trial.
Justice Steven David wrote that “the question before us is whether the record reflects that the child adequately understood the role of the medical professional and the purpose of the visit in order for us to infer that the child was motivated to speak truthfully.”
E.R. spent the night at her friend’s home in August 2009. The next morning, E.R. and S.D. claimed that S.D.’s father, Gerald VanPatten, molested them. The children were interviewed by a Department of Child Services caseworker and later by nurse Joyce Moss at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center. E.R. claimed she was molested that night; S.D. said she had been previously molested. A biological sample was able to be collected from only E.R.
VanPatten was convicted of Class A felony and Class C felony child molesting related to his daughter and Class A felony child molesting related to E.R.
He argued on appeal that Moss’ testimony as to what E.R. and S.D. told her during their examinations should not have been admitted. She testified after S.D. took the stand and recanted her previous allegations. The trial court allowed Moss’ testimony as substantive evidence. He only challenged his convictions related to his daughter.
The two-step analysis outlined in McClain v. State, 675 N.E.2d 329, 331 (Ind. 1996), should be used to determine whether the nurse’s statements could be admitted under Rule 803(4). The first step is whether the declarant is motivated to provide truthful information in order to promote diagnosis and treatment; the second is whether the content of the statement is such that an expert in the field would reasonably rely on it in rendering diagnosis or treatment.
When testifying at trial, Moss had no specific memory of what she said to the two girls prior to interviewing them and there was no testimony to establish the girls knew what telling the truth meant or the importance of it in a medical examination, David wrote.
“This is not to say that Moss did not necessarily discuss these things with S.D. and E.R., or that her work as a sexual assault examiner was somehow deficient. But without that firm indication of reliability in the record, we have no choice on appellate review but to conclude that the statements made to her by S.D. and E.R. should not have been admitted under the hearsay exception found in Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(4), and it was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to do so,” David wrote.
The justices found this to be a reversible error regarding the convictions relating to S.D. and ordered a new trial on the two charges.
Justice Mark Massa concurred in result, in which Justice Loretta Rush joined. Massa wrote that Moss’ statements may possibly be entered under the Protected Person Statute rather than Rule 803(4) and that on remand, if the prosecutor wants to admit Moss’ statements under that statute, the judge will have to conduct a hearing to determine whether those statements have “sufficient indications of reliability.”
Civil Tort – Punitive Damages Cap
State of Indiana v. John Doe
The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously reversed a Marion Superior judge’s 2011 decision in a sex-abuse case that held the statutes that cap punitive damages and dictate their allocation violate the Indiana Constitution.
A jury awarded John Doe $150,000 in punitive damages in his lawsuit against Rev. Jonathan Lovill Stewart for childhood sexual abuse. Stewart sought to have those damages reduced to the statutory cap of either three times the amount of the compensatory damages award or $50,000. Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer ruled in 2009 that I.C. 34-51-3-4 and -5 violate Article 3, Section 1 and Article 1, Section 20 of the state Constitution. In 2011, Dreyer issued an order declaring the cap and allocation of damages violated the separation of powers and right to jury.
Justice Mark Massa provided historical background on punitive damages in Indiana and the statutes that provide the cap and allocation of damages. Under Indiana law, the victim will receive 25 percent of the damages with the remaining 75 percent going into the Violent Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
Massa pointed to Johnson v. St. Vincent Hosp. Inc., 273 Ind. 374, 381, 404 N.E.2d 585, 591 (1980), and Cheatham v. Pohle, 789 N.E.2d 467, 473 (Ind. 2003), as requiring the justices to uphold the cap and allocation provisions at issue here.
“Doe has offered no meaningful reason, and we can conceive none, why a punitive damages cap is so materially different from a compensatory damages cap as to render the former unconstitutional when the latter is not. Rather, we agree with the State that, as we have said before, the jury’s determination of the amount of punitive damages is not the sort of ‘finding of fact’ that implicates the right to jury trial under our state constitution,” Massa wrote.
In addition, the cap doesn’t offend the separation of powers. In civil litigation, “Just as the legislative branch has broad power to limit common law causes of action and remedies, including punitive damages, the judicial branch has sole authority to apply those limitations to particular cases,” Massa continued. “The cap is a public policy judgment that punitive damages in civil cases should not exceed a certain amount. As such, it is no different from a public policy judgment that the penalty for Class C felony child molesting, for example, is imprisonment for between two and eight years.”
The justices held that I.C. 34-51-3-4, -5 and -6 do not violate Article 1, Section 20 or Article 3, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution. They remanded to the trial court to grant Stewart’s motion to reduce the punitive damages to the statutory maximum and order that 75 percent of that award go to the Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund.
Civil Plenary – Land Use/Deed
Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois v. Vincennes Indiana Girls, Inc.
Indiana Code 32-17-10-2 is unconstitutional as applied retroactively to a land-use restriction in a Vincennes Girl Scout organization’s deed requiring an Illinois Girl Scout group to use deeded land as a camp for 49 years.
Vincennes Indiana Girls Inc. deeded its Camp Wildwood in 1965 to Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois on the condition that scouting use continue for 49 years, with the deed providing that ownership of the campground would revert to VIG if the scouting-use condition was breached during that time. The deed also said that GSSI couldn’t convey, sell or dispose of the camp in any fashion for that 49-year period unless VIG’s existence is terminated during that time.
In January 2009, GSSI stopped using the camp for Girl Scout activities and decided to sell it. After it informed VIG of its intent, VIG discovered that it had been administratively dissolved in 2004 for failure to pay annual feels to the secretary of state. It was reinstated in August 2009. Both parties sued for quiet title to the camp, with the trial court granting summary judgment quieting title to VIG.
GSSI claimed that VIG’s reversionary interest expired by operation of I. C. 32-17-10-2, which limits reversionary clauses in land transactions to a maximum of 30 years. It also argued that VIG’s administrative dissolution in 2004 allowed GSSI to sell the camp.
Based on Indiana law, VIG’s corporate existence continued, in a limited capacity, even while it was administratively dissolved, and its reinstatement was retroactive as if the dissolution hadn’t occurred, Justice Loretta Rush wrote. As such, its reversionary rights did not terminate by operation of the deed.
“Here, though the parties only intended the restriction to run for 49 years instead of indefinitely, their contract would nevertheless be substantially impaired if it were cut off after just 30 years by applying Indiana Code section 32-17-10-2 – an effect just as ‘permanent, irrevocable, and retroactive in altering the [parties’] contractual relationships as in Clem (v. Christole, Inc.) 582 N.E.2d 780, 782 (Ind. 1991),” Rush wrote. “We see no reason this restriction, and the contractual relationship it creates, should have any less constitutional protection in a condition subsequent than in a restrictive covenant as in Clem.”
“And because VIG’s interest imposes a land-use restriction similar to a restrictive covenant, it deserves the same level of Contracts Clause protection. Since the parties bargained for a 49-year land use limitation on Camp Wildwood, terminating that restriction after just 30 years would substantially impair VIG’s contract rights. Indiana Code section 32-17-10-2 is therefore unconstitutional as applied retroactively to the land-use restriction in VIG’s deed to GSSI.”
The justices affirmed the grant of quiet title to VIG.
Indiana Court of Appeals
Criminal – Theft/Evidence
Dekuita Steen v. State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that clothing from the store H & M that bore the company name and security tags attached to it could be admitted at a woman’s trial for theft from the store on Black Friday.
Loss-prevention officer Kyle Hadley saw Dekuita Steen take clothing from H & M, place them on top of an empty stroller, then stuff the clothing into bags under the stroller. He watched her leave the store without paying, which activated the store’s security system. Hadley brought Steen back into the store, but she denied stealing. He removed the clothing from the bags and recognized it as the same clothing he saw Steen place in the bags. When Hadley was called to the front of the store to help with another matter, Steen fled down a fire escape and was arrested by police four days later.
Steen argued that the trial court erred in admitting Hadley’s testimony on the security tags and store labels into evidence at her trial because they are hearsay.
“While the security tags and store labels are not in evidence, we assume based on the parties’ briefs that the security tags and the store labels contained the writing ‘H & M,’” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. “This writing, taken by itself, is not capable of being true or not true. Since it is not capable of being true or not true, the clothing labels could not have been admitted for the truth of the matter asserted. Rather, they were admitted as circumstantial evidence showing that because the tags were attached to the clothing, it made it more likely than not that the clothing belonged to H & M. Since the security tags and store labels inside the clothing were not out-of-court assertions admitted for the truth of the matter asserted, they did not constitute hearsay evidence.”
The judges held that Hadley simply testified about what he observed based on his personal knowledge of the matter, so his testimony was not hearsay. There is sufficient evidence to show Steen exerted unauthorized control over the clothes, which supports her Class D felony conviction.
Civil Tort – Wrongful Death/Hazing
Stacy Smith and Robert Smith, Individually and as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Johnny Dupree Smith, Deceased v. Delta Tau Delta, Beta Psi Chapter of Delta Tau Delta, Wabash Col., et al.
The national organization of a Wabash College fraternity where a freshman pledge died after a night of heavy drinking is not entitled to summary judgment on the student’s parents’ claims arising from his wrongful death, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.
Johnny Dupree Smith was a freshman at Wabash in Crawfordsville and a pledge at the Beta Psi Chapter of Delta Tau Delta. During “hell week,” Smith drank heavily at a party, some of which he did while participating in a “pledge family drink night.” The morning after the party, he was found unresponsive. The coroner determined he had been dead for several hours and his blood alcohol content was nearly 0.40 percent.
His parents, Stacy and Robert Smith, sued the school, local chapter of the fraternity, the national organization, and the chapter’s risk manager, alleging violations of the hazing statute and the dram shop laws and asserted a claim of negligence against Delta Tau Delta.
Delta Tau Delta has a constitution, bylaws, and member responsibility guidelines that provide policies and rules for both individual and chapter expectations, including a prohibition of hazing and providing alcohol to pledges, requires its local chapters to comply with its rules, and enforces its rules at the chapter level in a variety of ways. Delta Tau Delta also mandated that each new member of the fraternity must complete an alcohol education program.
Delta Tau Delta filed a motion for summary judgment claiming Beta Psi’s individual members were not acting as agents of Delta Tau Delta and the national fraternity had not assumed a duty to the pledges of its local chapter to protect them from hazing and the danger of excessive alcohol consumption.
“To be sure, we are presented with a very narrow legal issue today. The parties are not alleging that an actual violation of the hazing statute or dram shop laws occurred; rather, we are requested to determine whether the national fraternity assumed a duty to its pledges or an agency relationship existed with the local chapter which could propel Delta Tau Delta within the purview of liability if the perceived violations of the hazing statute and dram shop laws took place,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.
The trial court had denied the Smiths’ motions to strike the affidavit of James Russell, Delta Tau Delta’s executive vice president, and two unsworn and uncertified statements made to police by witnesses. The trial court granted summary judgment for the national organization, the only defendant that the COA ruled on.
Several of the paragraphs showed contradictions as to the level of involvement the national organization has with local chapters, the Court of Appeals pointed out. And the two statements made by witnesses pertaining to the events around Johnny Smith’s death fall within the provision of investigative police reports and are inadmissible as hearsay under Ind. Evidence Rule 803(8).
The judges found that a genuine issue of material fact remains whether this level of influence alone is sufficient to find that the fraternity assumed a duty to protect its pledges from hazing and excessive alcohol consumption, the court held. The judges also found a genuine issue of material fact as to whether an agency relationship existed between the national organization and the local chapter.
Judge John Baker wrote a separate opinion in which he concurred in result with the majority and most of its analysis. But he believed the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the Smiths’ request to strike Paragraph 6 of Russell’s affidavit regarding the handling of local chapter affairs.
Civil Tort – Medical Malpractice Claim/Timely Filing
Bonnie Moryl, as Surviving Spouse and Personal Rep. of the Estate of Richard A. Moryl, Deceased v. Carey B. Ransone, M.D.; La Porte Hospital; Dawn Forney, RN; Wanda Wakeman, RN BSBA; et al.
Third-party carriers are not included in the statute regarding filing proposed medical malpractice complaints with the Indiana Department of Insurance, so a woman’s complaint that was sent via FedEx within the two-year statute of limitations – but not stamped until after the limitations expired – is not considered timely filed, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.
Bonnie Moryl argued that her proposed medical malpractice complaint stemming from the death of her husband on April 20, 2007, which she sent to the DOI on April 19, 2009, should be considered timely filed even though the department did not receive it and file stamp it until April 21. The defendants sought summary judgment, claiming the complaint was filed outside of the two-year statute of limitations, which the LaPorte Superior Court granted.
This is an issue of first impression for Indiana courts, in which Moryl claims that because Ind. Rules of Trial Procedure and the Rules of Appellate Procedure consider a pleading filed on the date it was deposited with a third-party carrier, the Medical Malpractice Act should also allow a proposed complaint to be considered filed with the DOI on the day it was sent FedEx Priority Overnight.
“Moryl correctly observes that (Trial Rule 5(F)(4) and Appellate Rule 23 deem various documents filed when they are deposited with a third-party carrier. However, Moryl fails to demonstrate that these rules extend to Indiana Code section 34-18-7-3(b). As the trial court pointed out in the summary judgment order, the issue here does not involve a filing in this court or with the trial court. Rather, the case involves a filing with Department, which is an administrative agency,” Judge John Baker wrote.
“There are no provisions suggesting that a proposed complaint is considered filed with the Department – an administrative agency – when it is deposited with a third-party commercial carrier. And contrary to Moryl’s argument that the statutes are ambiguous regarding the use of a third-party carrier, Indiana Code section 34-18-7-3(b) provides that a proposed complaint is considered filed when a copy of the proposed complaint is delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the Department. The use of other methods such as first class mail, a third-party carrier, or messenger, commands that filing a medical malpractice complaint under Indiana Code section 34-18-7-1(b) occurs on the date that the pleadings or complaint is received.”
Baker also pointed out that the Indiana Supreme Court has made it clear that trial rules do not govern the operations of administrative agencies or conditions precedent to the judicial review of administrative decisions.
Criminal – Restitution Order/Sentencing
Bobby Alexander v. State of Indiana
The Indiana Court of Appeals sent a case in ‘procedural limbo’ back to trial court to enter a restitution order within 30 days, which will allow the defendant to appeal his aggravated battery conviction. The appellate judges also advised trial courts on the pitfalls of postponing ordering restitution when ordering a sentence.
Bobby Alexander was convicted of two counts of Class B felony aggravated battery for shooting Robert Seger and Ryan Little. At the sentencing hearing, the state sought restitution for Seger; Alexander asked for the restitution hearing to occur at a later date so his counsel could look into discounts Seger may have received on his medical bills. The trial court had not entered a restitution order when it sentenced Alexander to time in the Department of Correction. Alexander filed his appeal regarding the conviction pertaining to Little while his restitution hearing was still pending. Restitution still has not been ordered.
The state sought dismissal of the appeal, which the COA’s motions panel denied. The state asked the appellate court to overturn its motions panel’s decision. The state argued based on Haste v. State, 967 N.E.2d 576 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), that Alexander does not have a final judgment under Appellate Rule 2(H). Although “reluctant” to overrule orders decided by its motions panel, the COA pointed out that the trial court has not entered a restitution order, so it dismissed the appeal.
“Given the procedural limbo in which this case stands, we remand this case to the trial court with instructions for the trial court to enter a restitution order within thirty (30) days of this Court’s opinion,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote. After the restitution order is entered, Alexander then can file a notice to appeal.
Pyle noted that it’s common for trial courts to impose a sentence while taking restitution under advisement.
“This practice, however, can prove to be problematic – as it has in this case – because it delays a defendant’s ability to begin an appeal due to the fact that a final order has not been entered. Consequently, this practice would affect a trial judge’s ability to advise a defendant of his appellate rights,” he explained. “Furthermore, when a trial court enters a sentence but takes restitution under advisement, the trial court is still subject to the ninety (90) 377day time limitation in Indiana Trial Rule 53.2 (‘the lazy judge rule’), which is applicable to criminal proceedings pursuant to Indiana Criminal Rule 15. Therefore, the best practice would be for trial courts to enter an order of restitution at the same time as sentencing.”
Civil Plenary – Title Insurance/Prejudice
First American Title Insurance Company v. Stephen W. Robertson, Insurance Commissioner of the State of Indiana, on Behalf of the Indiana Dept. of Insurance
The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s denial of a title insurance company’s verified petition for judicial review and declaratory relief, finding the court erred by requiring a separate showing of prejudice because the Indiana insurance commissioner failed to comply with a mandatory statutory deadline regarding an order setting an investigatory hearing.
Stephen W. Robertson, as Indiana insurance commissioner, had a third-party perform a market conduct examination of First American Title Insurance Company. The commissioner and First American were unable to reach a resolution on the issues regarding the report and the commissioner requested two extensions of the statutory 30-day deadline. The insurance company denied the commissioner’s third request for an extension, leading Robertson to issue an order appointing an administrative law judge and set an investigatory hearing on the report.
First American sought judicial review and declaratory relief in Marion Superior Court, saying the commissioner’s failure to act on the report within the statutory timeframe rendered the order void. The trial court denied the commissioner’s motion to dismiss, finding that First American properly filed an agency record, but held under the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act that the court must find that an agency action both fits into one of five categories and that the agency action prejudiced the petitioner in order to set aside the action. Those categories include an action that is in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations, or short of statutory right.
The court found First American didn’t meet its burden of proof regarding prejudice.
The Court of Appeals held that Robertson waived his argument that First American failed to exhaust administrative remedies because he raised this issue for the first time on appeal. The judges affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss on the grounds First American failed to submit an agency record.
“Because the issue was a question of law regarding compliance with a statutory deadline, and there were no disputed facts, the submitted materials were sufficient to allow judicial review of the issue,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “Moreover, most of the materials typically included in an agency record do not exist in this case because no evidentiary hearing was conducted.”
The judges also held that the commissioner does not have flexibility under statute as to when to respond to the third-party report and that the “shall” in I.C. 27-1-3.1-11 is mandatory. When the mandatory statutory deadline passed, the commissioner no longer had the authority to issue an order with regard to the report, rendering his order void, Robb wrote.
“… by failing to comply with a mandatory statutory deadline, the Commissioner acted without observance of procedure required by law and in excess of its statutory authority,” she continued. “No Indiana caselaw requires proving anything beyond establishing that the agency action at issue falls into one of the five enumerated categories set forth in Indiana Code section 4-21.5-5-14(d) in order to obtain relief. Thus, we find that First American satisfied its burden of proof and was entitled to relief.”•