Weekly Case Digests June 7, 2021 June 11, 2021.

Date11 June 2021

Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Digests

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Ross R. Thill v. Reed A. Richardson

Case No.: 20-2965

Officials: MANION, ROVNER, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Habeas Relief Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

A Wisconsin jury found Ross Thill guilty of sexual contact with A.M.M., his ex-girlfriend's eight- year-old daughter. At trial, A.M.M. testified that Thill had sexually assaulted her, and the prosecution presented forensic evidence corroborating her testimonyThill's semen was found on her underwear. Thill's defense was that his jilted ex- girlfriend framed him by saving his semen for over a year, planting it on her daughter's underwear, and then coaching her to make false accusations. While cross-examining Thill and in closing arguments, the prosecutor referenced Thill's failure to tell the police during his initial interview that he believed his ex-girlfriend had the means or motivation to frame him.

In state postconviction proceedings, Thill argued that the prosecutor impermissibly used his silence after receiving Miranda warnings to impeach himviolating Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 (1976)and that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals concluded Thill had not demonstrated prejudice. Because this conclusion was not contrary to nor an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, we affirm the district court's denial of habeas relief.


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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Oscar Guzman-Garcia v. Merrick B. Garland

Case No.: 20-1966

Officials: RIPPLE, HAMILTON, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Immigration Asylum

Oscar Guzman-Garcia fled Mexico for the United States in 2006, fearing gang retaliation for witnessing the murder of his older brother. Unfortunately, he did not apply for asylum and withholding of removal until 2014 eight years after his unauthorized entry. As a result, the immigration judge ("IJ") determined that Guzman-Garcia's asylum application was untimely. The IJ found that he had not filed it within the one-year statutory deadline that begins upon entry to the United States or shown that he qualified for an exception. Alternatively, the IJ concluded that even if the application was timely, she would nonetheless exercise her discretion to deny it, given Guzman-Garcia's criminal history and lack of rehabilitation evidence. The Board of Immigration Appeals (the "Board") affirmed the decision on the untimely basis. On petition for review, Guzman-Garcia challenges only the IJ's alternative basis for denial of his petitionthe exercise of discretion to deny asylum. Because Guzman-Garcia has raised no arguments against the dispositive determination that his application is time-barred, we deny his petition for review of the Board's decision to deny asylum.

Guzman-Garcia separately contests the Board's denial of his petition for withholding of removal. The Board held that Guzman-Garcia had not established any of the requisite elements and affirmed the IJ's decision. Because substantial evidence supports the Board's denial of Guzman-Garcia's petition for withholding of removal, we deny his petition for review.

Petition denied

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. David L. Newton

Case No.: 20-2893

Officials: RIPPLE, HAMILTON, and KIRSCH, Circuit Judges.

Focus: First Step Act Compassionate Release

David Newton, an inmate at FCI Seagoville in Texas, moved for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). He seeks a reduced sentence of time served because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He submitted that the combination of his asthma, hypertension, and use of a corticosteroid heightened his risk of serious consequences should he become infected. The district court denied the motion; it concluded that Mr. Newton failed to establish the "extraordinary and compelling reasons" required under the compassionate release statute. Because the district court did not address adequately Mr. Newton's arguments, we vacate the court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Vacated and remanded

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Alfred E. Jerry

Case No.: 20-1298

Officials: SYKES, Chief Judge, and HAMILTON and BRENNAN, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines Plain Error

Alfred Jerry robbed a cellphone store at gunpoint and then pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951. When he committed this crime, Jerry had previous state convictions for robbery and attempted murder. At sentencing in this case, the district court determined that those state convictions, in addition to his Hobbs Act robbery conviction, meant that Jerry qualified as a "career offender" under the Sentencing Guidelines. That designation requires that a defendant have committed at least three "crimes of violence" as defined by U.S.S.G. 4B1.1 & 1.2. While this case was on appeal, this court held in Bridges v. United States that Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a "crime of violence" under the Guidelines. 991 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 2021). Because the plain error standard requires courts to look to the law at the time of appeal when deciding if an error is "clear and obvious," Henderson v. United States, 568 U.S. 266, 269 (2013), we conclude that it was plain error to sentence Jerry as a career offender, and we remand for resentencing.

Reversed and remanded

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Julius Evans v. Alex Jones

Case No.: 19-3466

Officials: RIPPLE, BRENNAN, and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence

An Illinois jury convicted Julius Evans of the first-degree murder of Moatice Williams, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago. Only one eyewitnessAndrew Jeffersconnected Evans to the shooting. Jeffers's account of the shooting dramatically changed over time. Jeffers initially only provided a few general identifying details of the shooter, and did not specifically identify any of the shooters. Eleven months later, however, the police approached him while he was incarcerated and Jeffers then identified Evans as the shooter. Then, at trial, Jeffers recanted that identification: he testified that he did not see the identity of the shooter but had identified Evans because the police told him to.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor argued that Jeffers's trial testimonythat he did not see Evans shoot Williamswas false and the jury should disbelieve it because Jeffers only changed his story after being paid a visit by a defense investigator working for Evans's co-defendant, Mario Young, who was a known gang member. Evans appealed his conviction, asserting that the prosecutor's statements during closing argument deprived him of his right to a fair trial. He contended that the prosecutor's statements were improper because there was insufficient evidence in the record to support them, and that they were prejudicial because Jeffers's credibility was of the utmost importance given the lack of other evidence against Evans. The state appellate court...

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