U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recent Criminal Law Decisions

A U.S. district court in Chicago recently denied a warrant that would have allowed the government to compel any individual at the searched location to unlock his iPhone, iPad, or other Apple electronic device that was protected Touch ID. The warrant application raises serious Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns, the court explained, and fails to establish sufficient probable cause for the request that "is neither limited to a particular person nor a particular device."

Last summer, the U.S. government obtained a similar warrant to compel anyone in a building in California to unlock their phones with their fingerprints, but the recent ruling out of Illinois shows how such requests can meet resistance.

No Reduced Sentence for a Snitch Who Ran Too Soon

Tyran ran.

That was the problem for Tyran Patton, a government informant who lost out on a sentence reduction because he took off in the middle of an investigation. A major drug dealer in the Chicago area, he was supposed to testify before a grand jury but disappeared before returning to face his own charges.

Because he had helped authorities bust some street-level offenders, Patton wanted prosecutors to ask the court for a lower sentence. They declined, and the court sentenced him to 224 months in prison.

Brendan Dassey was convicted in 2007, alongside his uncle Steven Avery, of the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach. That conviction, however, was based on a confession a federal judge found to be coerced. Halbach's murder, and the investigation that followed, were the subject of Netflix's 2015 hit, "Making a Murderer" and Dassey's manipulation by prosecutors, and by his own attorney, became one of the major stories to emerge from the film.

Now Dassey's case is before the Seventh Circuit, where a three-judge panel recently heard oral arguments over whether or not Dassey's confession was valid.

The Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment's right to a public trial extends to the voir dire process. But that right doesn't require a new trial for two Wisconsinites who were convicted after their judge barred the public from voir dire, the Seventh Circuit ruled last week.

Why? Lack of objection from the defense attorneys. In a brief opinion penned by Judge Richard Posner, the Seventh ruled that those attorneys "forfeited their clients' right to an audience by failing to object to the judge's ruling excluding the audience in whole or part."

$77.8 Million RICO Award Gets Two-Thirds Reduction

The Seventh Circuit has concluded that RICO does not apply to the 2014 conviction of disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich because there was "no specific threat" of a scheme existing at the time.

The result is that the $77.8 million that had been awarded to a casino group would get the haircut of the century: a reduction to $25 million.

Jared Fogle's Pitch for Mercy Fails at the 7th Circuit

Last month Jared Fogle attempted to convince the court that his 188-month sentence had been unjustifiably enhanced and should be reduced. The case made headlines in particular because of the controversial theory his lawyer pushed: fantasizing about having sex with minors is not a crime.

Now, the Seventh Circuit has affirmed the district court's ruling, effectively closing the door to further calls for mercy unless an appeal to SCOTUS is made.

7th Circuit Employs Rarely Used FRE 807 Residual Hearsay Rule

The always insightful Seventh Circuit employed the rarely used Federal Rule of Evidence 807 "residual hearsay" rule recently to allow phone evidence connecting a man to the illegal sale of a gun used in a shootout with Indiana police.

The analysis, in our view, could have gone either way -- especially when looking at the authoring judge's language.

Jared Fogle's Latest Pitch: A Plea for a Shorter Sentence

Jared Fogle, the disgraced former Subway pitchman, is attempting to reduce his sentence by pushing an argument that's sure to cause a stir: sex fantasies with minors cannot support an enhanced sentence.

It's an argument that some legal analysts regard with some skepticism, particular when seen in context of the rest of Fogle's conduct, some of which famously includes traveling specifically to engage in sex with an underage girl. Whichever way this turns out, this case will not simply fizzle away.

Can Cops Use iTranslate to Get Consent to Search? Si...

How accurate must a broken translation be in order for actual consent to be granted for a vehicle search? This question was the very center of a recent ruling by the Seventh Circuit which decided that the iPhone's iTranslate app can be used to obtain consent in lieu of warrant for an automobile search.

It does raise a very interesting question, though. What are the limitations on broken speech and consent and what implications will they have on broader civil rights?

7th Circuit Affirms Combined Convictions Against Child Abuser

A divided Seventh Circuit affirmed both child abuse and felony gun use convictions against admitted abuser David Resnick in a split decision that implicates the admissibility of polygraph information -- or rather, evidence of the defendant's refusal to submit to a polygraph.

But although the affirmation may strike many as being the proper outcome, the Fifth Amendment implications the opinion raises should really give even the most casual reader pause.