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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ind. Decisions - One Ind. case today from the 7th Circuit

In USA v. Cunningham, Herman (SD ind., Sarah Evans Barker, Judge), a 14-page opinion, Circuit Judge Kane writes:

After a jury trial, Herman Cunningham, Larry Williams, and David Hardin were convicted of conspiracy to commit various drug offenses involving the distribution of heroin in Indianapolis, Indiana. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, 860(a), 861(f). Hardin was also convicted of possession with intent to distribute heroin and of being a felon in possession of a firearm.1 See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Cunningham was sentenced to life in prison; Williams and Hardin were sentenced to 420 and 300 months’ imprisonment, respectively. Over the defendants’ objection at trial, the government recounted a litany of procedures of the local U.S. Attorney’s office, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) utilized in seeking court authorization for two telephone wiretaps. In doing so, the government witness’s testimony suggested to the jury that a panel of senior government lawyers in the Office of the Attorney General in Washington, D.C. and others in law enforcement were of the opinion that there was probable cause to believe the defendants were indeed engaging in criminal activity. The admission of this irrelevant evidence had the effect of improperly bolstering the credibility of the government’s case in the eyes of the jury, and the error was not harmless. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 29, 2006 01:09 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions