Seventh Circuit - General Application Issues

United States v. Helding, 948 F.3d 864 (7th Cir. 2020). The court violated the defendant’s due process rights when, over the defendant’s objection, it relied solely on the out-of-court statements of a confidential informant recounted in the PSR to find the applicable drug quantity. “The sentencing record here did not contain enough to find the CI-provided information sufficiently reliable to influence [the defendant’s] guidelines determination and ultimate sentence.”

Dotson v. United States, 949 F.3d 317 (7th Cir. 2020). In very limited circumstances, the government may “substitute” an ACCA predicate offense if another predicate was deemed ineligible. The defendant’s ACCA enhancement could stand because he had notice of the substituted prior conviction. It was included in the indictment and presentence report, and the defendant clearly had knowledge and a belief, albeit mistaken, that the offense in question had served as a predicate during trial and appellate proceedings.

United States v. Carnell, 972 F.3d 932 (7th Cir. 2020). A defendant has neither a confrontation clause nor a due process right to cross-examine analysts and scientists who draft lab reports used at sentencing.

United States v. Wyatt, 982 F.3d 1028 (7th Cir. 2020). The government breached the plea agreement when it failed to mention the defendant’s cooperation, but the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s sentence on plain error review because the trial court accepted the parties’ jointly recommended sentence for a sentence well below the Guidelines range.

United States v. Jett, 982 F.3d 1072 (7th Cir. 2020). Section 1B1.2(d), which addresses a conspiracy to commit more than one offense, requires a court to apply the reasonable-doubt standard, not the preponderance standard, to find which object offenses the defendant conspired to commit.

United States v. Stamps, 983 F.3d 945 (7th Cir. 2020). Statutory safety valve requires a defendant to prove by a preponderance that any firearm possessed was unrelated to the drug trafficking conviction. It does not, unlike §2D1.1(b)’s two-level enhancement, require proof that the firearm’s connection to the drug offense was clearly improbable.

United States v. Stephens, 986 F.3d 1004 (7th Cir. 2021). Even when the court decides to disclose the probation officer’s sentencing recommendation to the parties, the court is not obliged to explain its decision to disregard the recommendation.

United States v. Sanchez, 989 F.3d 523 (7th Cir. 2021). In a case involving multiple codefendants, “[t]he best way to curtail ‘unwarranted’ disparities is to follow the Guidelines, which are designed to treat similar offenses and offenders similarly.” The court of appeals remains “open in all cases to an argument that a defendant’s sentence is unreasonable because of a disparity with the sentence of a co-defendant[], but such an argument will have more force when a judge departs from a correctly calculated Guidelines range to impose the sentence.”

United States v. Coe, 992 F.3d 594 (7th Cir. 2021). The court did not improperly consider the defendant’s race when it rejected the defendant’s argument that his father’s incarceration was a significant mitigating factor. Although the court remarked that an absent father “is a common thing in our particular community” (both the judge and defendant were Black), in context, the comment was part of a “race-neutral” explanation that, unlike many other defendants, the defendant had a supportive mother and family.