This section will contain short summaries and commentary pertaining to
State and Federal firearm related cases. Normally cases regarding felons
charged with possession of firearms will not be covered on this site because,
as one learned Judge observed: “Cases involving felons charged with
possessing firearms are generally mundane. In the typical case, a felon, with a
gun in his car is stopped for a traffic violation. If the evidence isn’t
suppressed, the inevitable conditional plea follows, with the search issue
reserved for appellate review.” See U.S. v. Cleo C. Ross, 412 F. 3d 771,
Justice Evans commenting.
However, because of the search and seizure issues, some of these cases
are noteworthy and warant reporting, especially those involving questionable
search tactics that can have a profound effect upon the average Joe Citizen.
Other cases reported in this section will focus on unusual factual
scenarios and/or instances where a Judge may make an observation or state an
opinion about gun control.
vs. Reginald Guice, 2006,
WL 2583723 (Northern Dist.
opinion. Only the Westlaw citation is currently available.)
This case before the
U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, was tried before a jury, and
the Defendant moved for a new trial subsequent to his felony conviction of
unlawfully possessing a firearm.(18 U.S.C. 922(k)) .Defendant’s filed a motion
for acquittal under Federal Rule of
Procedure 29(c) , and in the
alternative for a new trial pursuant to Rule 33. Defendant challenged the
sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial.
not an appellate case, and categorized among those mundane cases
dealing with a felon
found to be in possession of a firearm, this case states numerous case authorities
that clearly demonstrate the 7th Circuit’s hard-nose
position regarding firearm cases. .
Facts: This case as
reported has no factual concerning why
and under what circumstances the defendant and his car were
searched. However, the officers’ testimony is addressed insofar as
it showed that defendant had two firearms in the trunk of his car,
and that another gun was found under Defendant’s thigh during a
pat-down search inside the vehicle. Defendant initially told the
officers he was a security guard, that he had fallen asleep in the
car and was not the driver. The car was shown to be his and that he
had been discharged from the guard position a month
the onset the Court points out that by challenging the sufficiency of the
evidence, it is said that the Defendant "faces a nearly insurmountable hurdle.
v. Gougis. 432
F. 3d 735, 743-744. The Court must consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, drawing all reasonable inferences in the
government’s favor," and a '[r]eversal
is appropriate only when, after viewing the
evidence in such a manner, 'no rational jury could have found the defendant to
have committed the essential
elements of the crime.
v. Macari, 453 F. 3d 926, 936
(7th Cir. 1999)"'
The Court had
this to say, in pertinent part, regarding Defendant’s challenge to the
sufficiency of the evidence:
The testimony of the officers regarding discovery of the gun [under defendant's
thigh] did not include facts that were physically impossible or that could be
deemed incredible as a matter of law. See
v. Griffen, 194 F. 3d
808, 817 [7th Cir. 1999] (stating also that '[t]o make the necessary
showing that certain evidence is incredible
matter of law or
unbelievable on its face,
must demonstrate that it would
have been physically impossible for the witness to observe what he described,
or it was impossible under the law of nature for those events to have occurred
) (quoting United
States v. Alcantar, 83 F. 3d 185, 189 (7th Cir. 1996).
Therefore, Guice has failed to show that no rational jury could have found all
the elements of the charge in Count One were proven against him beyond a
reasonable doubt and we deny the motion for judgment of acquittal on the jury
verdict on count one."
objected to the Court’s refusal to give a "mere presence
instruction” by which the jury would be instructed that “[a] defendant’s mere
presence in the proximity of firearms without more is insufficient to show
possession of those firearms. A
defendant’s mere association with those who may have possessed firearms without
more is insufficient to show possession of firearms."
Addressing this issue the Court stated that " .
. . in the instant action, the mere presence instruction was not
applicable because there was ample evidence, besides Guice's proximity to the
[firearms], to show constructive possession of the [firearms]. Not only were
the firearms found in Guice's presence,
but evidence was presented that Guice owned the car in which the firearms were
found. The Government also presented evidence showing that Guice had the gun
concealed under his thigh and evidence showing that Guice gave implausible
statements to the arresting officers when they approached the car. Thus, the
mere presence instruction did not reflect a theory in the case that was
applicable in light of the evidence presented at trial
". . . In addition, Guice’s instruction is not
supported by the law .The Seventh Circuit has specifically ‘rejected the
contention that possession instructions must includes a qualifier that
mere proximity is not possession' and
has held that a District Court's instructions coupled with the defendant’s
ability to argue his theory to the jury adequately presented
his theory of defense. U.S. v. Hendricks,
319 F. 3d 993,1005-06 (7th Cir. 2006) (quoting
U.S. v. Rice, 995 F. 2d 719,725 (7th Cir. 1993)).
U.S. v. Lee, 439 F. 3d 381, 387 (7th
Cir. 2006) (stating that a 'district court is afforded substantial discretion
with respect to the precise wording of instructions so long as the final
result, read as a whole, completely and correctly states the law').
. . . Based on the foregoing
analysis, we deny Guice’s motion for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the
jury verdict and we deny Guice’s motion for a new trial."
U.S. v. Ross, 412 F 3d 771, C.A. 7 (Ill.), 2005
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded where the
defendant was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of
Illinois of the offense of possession of a firearm by a felon. There was a four
year difference from the “on or about” date of the offense as charged in the
indictment and the start of the date range that the jury was instructed to
consider the defendant being in possession of a firearm. This was the turning
point of the basis for remand.
The defendant had been charged in the indictment as possessing “a firearm on or
about 9/8/02.” However, the jury was instructed that defendant could be found
guilty if he possessed the shotgun “on or after May 22, 1998” to conform to the
evidence at the trial, and to defeat a possible statute of limitations defense.
At trial it was alleged that defendant had shown a shotgun to his lady friend
in the summer of 2001, and admitted it was his, while other facts revealed the
firearm involved in a tryst which gave rise to the allegations that supported
the indictment was a pistol.
The appeals court held that there was an unreasonable departure from the
charging language in the indictment. Justice Evans, writing for the
majority, noted that this case, at least the factual scenario, was unlike the
usual mundane felony possession case, and he made a candid observation--that
is, “Realistically, federal grand juries today provide little protection
for criminal suspects whom a U.S. Attorney wishes to indict. Nevertheless, that
is not a realism to which Judges are permitted to yield.”
U.S. v. Darius Williams, 436 F. 3d 767 (No. 052380). C.A. 7
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Southern District of
Illinois Federal District Court decision in a firearm case where the guidelines
for sentencing followed by the District Judge was challenged. The defense
argued that “the guidelines range is only one of several factors listed in
section 3553(a), and although the district court mentioned several of the other
factors, it did not give them meaningful consideration.”
The appeals court found that the trial court viewed the mitigating
circumstances of the defendant’s traumatic childhood and psychiatric problems,
and came to the correct decision regarding sentencing based on “reasons that
are logical and consistent with the factors set forth in section 3553(a).” The
Court went on to note: “Nonetheless, the court decided that a sentence
within the guidelines range would be appropriate not only to deter [defendant]
from possessing a gun in the future, but to send a message to the community to
stop carrying firearms. The court stated that the sentence was consistent with
Congress’s policy on guns and avoiding disparate sentences.”
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