Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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A barge exploded in 2005, while under way between Joliet and Chicago with a cargo of slurry oil. Deckhand Oliva did not survive. Claiming that Egan, master of the tug that had been pushing the barge, told Oliva to warm a pump using a propane torch, the United States filed a civil suit. Open flames on oil carriers are forbidden by Coast Guard regulations. The judge determined that the government did not prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Oliva was using a propane torch at the time of the incident. There was no appeal. Two years later, the government charged Egan under 18 U.S.C.1115, which penalizes maritime negligence that results in death, plus other statutes that penalize the negligent discharge of oil into navigable waters. The judge found that the prosecution had established, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Egan gave the order to Oliva, that the torch caused the explosion, and that Oliva died and that the barge released oil as results. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court has said that the outcome of a civil case has preclusive force in a criminal prosecution. If the government could not prove a claim on the preponderance standard, it cannot show the same thing beyond a reasonable doubt. View "United States v. Egan" on Justia Law

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Muse, with others, boarded the MV Maersk Alabama in 2009, off the Somalian coast, taking its captain hostage. Muse initially stated that he was 16 at the time. Before a hearing to determine his age, Muse told an agent that he was 18. At the hearing, Muse refused to testify. A New York Magistrate concluded that Muse was at least 18 when the crime occurred. Prosecuted as an adult, Muse pleaded guilty to piracy, 18 U.S.C. 2280, and was sentenced to 405 months’ imprisonment. The plea agreement contains a promise “not to seek to withdraw his guilty plea or file a direct appeal or any kind of collateral attack" based on his age at the time of the crime or the time of the plea. Nonetheless, Muse filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, arguing that a magistrate lacked authority to decide whether he was an adult and that his lawyer furnished ineffective assistance by not pursuing that question. Chief District Judge Preska denied that motion; the Second Circuit declined to issue a certificate of appealability. Turning to the Southern District of Indiana, where he is imprisoned, Muse unsuccessfully sought habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. 2241. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Muse has not identified any inadequacy in section 2255. The reason he could not contest the magistrate’s decision has nothing to do with section 2255, but was the consequence of his waiver. View "Muse v. Daniels" on Justia Law