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Friday, December 19, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In USA v. Clark (SD Ind., Barker), a 15-page opinion, Judge Williams writes:

Milford Clark strolled into a credit union wearing a two‐tone baseball hat and sunglasses, walked out, and got into his blue Ford Crown Victoria. Five days later, a man fitting Clark’s description robbed a bank wearing a two‐tone baseball hat and sunglasses and left in a blue Ford Crown Victoria. Authorities interviewed and ultimately arrested Clark for the robbery. Clark wanted to represent himself and the magistrate judge found that Clark waived his right to counsel for proceedings before that court. The district court considered the issue anew on a motion from the government and asked Clark questions about his decision to proceed pro se. Ultimately, Clark decided against self‐representation. He was convicted, and now argues on appeal that the district court infringed on his Sixth Amendment right to proceed pro se because it improperly reconsidered an issue already decided by the magistrate judge. We reject this argument because the district court could analyze whether Clark’s waiver was valid since the magistrate judge’s ruling was limited to “this juncture” of the proceedings, namely Clark’s initial appearance. Moreover, the addition of DNA evidence to the government’s case gave the court reason to question whether Clark fully understood the perils of going pro se and the court properly alerted Clark about how that evidence changed the nature of the case. We also find the credit union evidence was properly admitted for a non‐propensity purpose, to establish Clark’s identity. Though we are troubled by the government’s introduction of more evidence than necessary to show Clark’s identity, including a video and witness testimony that were used to characterize Clark’s actions as “casing” the credit union, any errors in introducing more than just a still photo and failing to weigh the probative and prejudicial values of the evidence on the record were harmless since Clark met the physical description of the robber and his DNA was found at the Bank. Therefore we affirm.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 19, 2014 07:44 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions