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7th Circuit dismisses appeal based on waiver

November 28, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a convicted murderer’s appeal arguing that the waiver of his right to appeal should be ignored because his sentence was outside statutory requirements, calling the man’s argument “undesirable” and “nonsensical.”

In United States of America v. Darryl Anthony Worthen, 15-3521, Darryl Worthen frequently delivered packages to Scott Maxie, the owner of a gun store in southern Indiana called Muscatatuck Outdoors. The two frequently spoke when Worthen made deliveries and Worthen even considered Maxie to be a friend. However, Worthen eventually developed a plan to exploit their friendship and rob Maxie’s store with his family members.

On Sept. 20, 2014, Worthen asked to meet with Maxie under the guise of making a gun trade, but in reality he was giving his brother, DeJuan, and his cousin, Darion Harris, the opportunity to case the gun store. The trio returned to the gun store the next day with backpacks they intended to use to carry their stolen guns.

The brothers and cousin also decided to kill Maxie after the robbery, so they brought along a handgun. When they arrived at the store, Worthen began speaking with Maxie, then pulled out the gun and shot him in the eye, killing him.

The trio then stole 45 firearms and Maxie’s laptop, which was recording the store’s surveillance feed. Worthen threw the murder weapon and laptop into a cornfield as they were driving home.

The three men were arrested the following day, and in March 2015, a grand jury indicted Worthen on four counts: Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, causing death while using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, and stealing firearms from a federal firearms licensee. He agreed to plead guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and the crime of violence charge and waived his appeal rights as part of a plea agreement. Worthen was sentenced to a total of 60 years in prison.

Despite the fact that he waived his right to appeal, Worthen chose to file an appeal on the grounds that a Hobbs Act robbery is not a “crime of violence,” so his related conviction is invalid and his 60-year sentence exceeds the maximum of 20 years for his robbery conviction.

But Judge Michael Kanne wrote that Worthen’s argument asks the court to create a rule that says an appeal waiver is enforceable unless the appellant would succeed on the merits of his appeal.

Kanne wrote such a rule cannot be law because it would require courts to consider an appeal’s merits in every case. If a merit review found that a conviction was not valid, then any sentence would exceed the statutory minimum and, thus, the defendant did not waive his or her right to an appeal. But if the conviction was valid, then the appeal would be dismissed as long as the sentence was within statutory requirements, making an appeal waiver irrelevant because the appeal would have been decided on its merits anyway.

“Consequently, this rule would eviscerate the right to waive an appeal,” he wrote in the Monday opinion. “Worthen’s proposal is as undesirable as it is nonsensical.”

The 7th Circuit dismissed Worthen’s appeal without considering its merits.

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