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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides three Indiana cases today

In U.S. v. Steven Dotson (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 7-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

The defendant, arrested after reportedly having assaulted a woman and pointed a pistol at her, was prosecuted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He was found guilty in a bench trial and sentenced to 188 months in prison. The only question presented by his appeal is whether the pistol was a firearm, defined (so far as bears on this case) as “any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” or “the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” §§ 921(a)(3)(A), (B). The pistol is a Hi-Point .380 caliber semi-automatic. It was certainly designed to be a gun, and nothing else. But according to the pretrial report of an expert at the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at the time when the defendant possessed the gun it was inoperable because of “significant damage, missing/broken parts, and extensive corrosion.” The expert testified similarly at trial—testified that the gun was “damage[d]” and had “corroded, missing and broken components which make it inoperable.” * * *

The question for us is whether nevertheless the defendant’s gun “is designed” to expel a projectile by means of an explosive. The district judge found that it is. * * *

The gun in this case, although in bad condition, neither was redesigned to be something other than a gun nor is so badly damaged that it can no longer be regarded as a weapon designed to fire bullets. And just as a very ill person can look entirely normal on the outside, the outward appearance of the defendant’s gun is normal. Designed to be a gun, never redesigned to be something else, not so dilapidated as to be beyond repair, the gun fits the statutory definition and the judgment must therefore be AFFIRMED

In U. S. v. GEOFFRIE ALLEN LEE DILL (SD Ind., Pratt), a 9-page opinion, Judge Williams writes:
Officers found methamphetamine and a loaded .38 Cobra handgun on Geoffrie Allen Lee Dill during a routine traffic stop and he was charged with various drug and firearm offenses. Following a two-day jury trial, the jury found him guilty. Dill’s sole argument on appeal is that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed an alternate juror to be present in the jury deliberation room. Dill’s attorney did not object to the alternate’s presence at the time, but now argues that it affected his substantial rights at trial. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 24(c)(3) provides that a “court may retain alternate jurors after the jury retires to deliberate” but the court “must ensure that a retained alternate does not discuss the case with anyone.” Though the parties agree that the rule prohibits alternates from deliberating with the regular jury, Dill has offered no evidence to suggest that the alternate juror participated in deliberations. Since there was no plain error here, we affirm Dill’s conviction.
In BETTY M. JORDAN and THEODORE R. JORDAN v. KELLY D. BINNS and U.S . XPRES S, INC. (SD Ind., Lawrence), a 33-page opinion, Judge Tinder writes:
This diversity action arises out of a tragic accident in which Betty Jordan ultimately lost both of her legs at the knees after the motorcycle she was operating on an interstate highway collided with a semi tractor-trailer operated by Kelly Binns. Betty and her husband, Ted Jordan (collectively, the Jordans or the plaintiffs), sued Binns and his employer, U.S. Xpress, Inc. (collectively, the defendants), for negligence and loss of consortium under Indiana law. A jury trial resulted in a defense verdict. The Jordans seek a new trial on grounds that several of the district court’s evidentiary rulings ran afoul of the rule against hearsay, Fed. R. Evid. 802. We affirm.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 4, 2013 02:32 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions