« Courts - Use of Rosie, a golden Retriever who helps young victims testifying in court, challenged | Main | Law - Renton Washington Police Respond To Parody Videos Investigation »

Monday, August 08, 2011

Ind. Decisions - Three new 7th Circuit Indiana opinions today, plus one released earlier

US v. Gray (ND Ind., Moody), a 13-page opinion by Judge Posner, begins:

A jury convicted Wynell Gray of Medicaid fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1347, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, id., § 371, and the judge sentenced her to 33 months in prison and ordered her to pay restitution of $846,115 to Indiana Medicaid. Her appeal presents a variety of issues, with emphasis on the government’s alleged violation of the Brady rule, which requires prosecutors in some circumstances to provide exculpatory evidence in their actual or constructive possession to the defendant. * * *

It may be helpful to distinguish between patent and latent exculpatory evidence. Patent exculpatory evidence is evidence that is exculpatory on its face; an example would be a confession by Suddoth, in the possession of the FBI, in which he took full responsibility for the fraud and described Gray as an innocent whom he had gulled. Such evidence is Brady material. Latent exculpatory evidence is evidence that requires processing or supplementation to be recognized as exculpatory. It is illustrated by the timestamp data in this case, the exculpatory character of which was unknown and unknowable until EDS wrote and ran the program that extracted the data from its database. * * *

To charge prosecutors with knowledge of exculpatory evidence buried in the computer databases of institutions that collect and store vast amounts of digitized data would be an unreasonable extension of the Brady rule. The courts, rightly in our view, have refused to make it. * * * Affirmed.

In US v. Rutledge (SD Ind., McKinney), a 14-page opinion, Judge Wood writes:

At the jury selection preceding Anthony Rutledge’s criminal trial, the prosecutor used peremptory challenges to strike the only two African- American members in the venire. Suspecting that these actions violated the Equal Protection Clause, Rutledge’s attorney objected to the strikes using the three-step procedure established in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

This appeal focuses solely on Batson’s third step, which requires the district court to make a finding of fact regarding the prosecutor’s credibility after the prosecutor has offered a race-neutral reason for the strike (step two). Here, the district court denied Rutledge’s Batson challenge after saying that the government’s reasons were “nonracial,” but without making any finding on the prosecutor’s credibility. As we have recently emphasized, “we cannot presume that the prosecutor’s race-neutral justification was credible simply because the district judge ultimately denied the challenge.” United States v. McMath, 559 F.3d 657, 666 (7th Cir. 2009). The district court must make an independent credibility determination at step three. Because we cannot find the necessary credibility finding in this record, we are unable at this stage to make an informed decision about the court’s decision to deny the Batson challenge. We therefore remand the case to the district court so that it can fill this void.

In US v. Joshua, Karras, and Allen, Jr. (ND Ind., Simon), a 17-page opinion, Judge Wood writes:
The Calumet Township Trustee’s Office (“Trustee’s Office”) is a political subdivision of Indiana that provides various social services to citizens of Gary and Griffith. Defendants Wanda Joshua, Ann Marie Karras, and Dozier T. Allen, Jr., ran the Office. Unfortunately, they did not do so honorably; instead, they engaged in a scheme to defraud the Office by taking substantial payments for work they did not perform. In particular, they commandeered checks made out to the Office by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development Services and, instead of using the funds for their intended purpose, they deposited them into their own personal bank accounts. This led to charges and convictions on two counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1346. On appeal, the defendants raise three issues: first, that the evidence was insufficient on the mailing element of mail fraud, thereby requiring their acquittal; second, that the decision in Skilling v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010), requires us to set aside their convictions; and finally, that the district court improperly instructed the jury regarding their advice-of-counsel defense. Although we find the evidence of mailing thin, we conclude that it was enough to send the case to the jury. As neither of the other two points has merit, we therefore affirm.
Resendez v. Knight (SD Ind., Barker), posted by the 7th Circuit today, was released initially in typescript form on August 1st and summarized by the ILB here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 8, 2011 01:44 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions