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United States v. Bland

February 25, 2008


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 05 CR 30050-Jeanne E. Scott, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sykes, Circuit Judge.


Before ROVNER, WILLIAMS, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

After a jury found him guilty of armed bank robbery and using a firearm during that offense, Shawn Bland was sentenced to consecutive terms of 63 and 84 months' imprisonment. On appeal, Bland argues he is entitled to a new trial because the government failed to disclose potential Brady materials until after his trial. Bland also faults the district court for not conducting an independent in camera review of these materials and instead simply accepting the govern-ment's characterization of their contents. Because Bland has not established that the government committed a Brady violation and the district court had no independent duty to review the putative Brady materials, we affirm.

I. Background

On the morning of March 24, 2005, Vania Anderson, a teller at the National City Bank in Springfield, Illinois, saw an African-American male walk into the bank wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled tightly around his face. The man produced a small black handgun and announced he was robbing the place. The robber tossed a black bag over the teller counter at Stacy Huntington, another teller. As Huntington bent down to pick up the bag, the robber warned her not to trigger any alarms. The robber then ordered two other bank employees, Wendy Friedrich and Linda Brown, to come out of their offices, presumably so he could keep an eye on them. As he had with Huntington, the robber warned them not to set off any alarms. Once Brown was out of her office, the robber pulled the slide of the gun back, emphasizing he was ready to use it.

Brown, who was the bank's office manager, told the other employees to follow the robber's instructions. While the other employees held their hands up where the robber could see them, Huntington emptied her cash drawer into the black bag before handing it to Anderson, who did the same with her drawer. The robber then took back his bag, now filled with cash, and asked if there was a vault. Brown responded that the employee with access to the vault had not yet arrived for the day. When the robber asked where the back exit of the bank was, Brown said that door was locked. She explained that the keys were in her pocket, but said she would need to lower her hands to get them. Apparently dissatisfied with this answer or simply not wanting to remain in the bank any longer, the robber made his getaway through the bank's front door, escaping with over $4500 in cash. With the robber gone, Brown locked the bank's doors, and Huntington and Anderson set off alarms. Janet Moser, a customer sitting in her car outside the bank, sensed something was amiss inside the bank and followed the robber for a few blocks before eventually losing sight of him. The police arrived at the bank within five minutes.

A crime technician with the Springfield Police Department lifted a partial palm print, a hand heel print, and some fingerprints from the inside surface of the bank's front doors. Testimony at trial established that those doors were cleaned nightly by housekeeping. The prints were later identified as Bland's. Eyewitnesses Friedrich, Brown, and Huntington were interviewed by FBI Special Agent Terrence Moody; Janet Moser was interviewed by the Springfield police. A week or two later, Agent Moody and another FBI Special Agent, Chris Pyle, presented a photo array containing Bland's photo to Anderson, Friedrich, and Huntington. Anderson and Friedrich identified Bland as the robber; Huntington identified a different person.

In the meantime, three days after the robbery, Bland was arrested for driving on a suspended license, and a search of his car turned up a small black handgun. Bank employees later identified the gun as similar to the one used in the robbery. Bland was detained on state charges in the Logan County Jail; while there, he made several taped telephone calls in which he referred to giving his sister $4000 to hold for him. On April 2, 2005, Springfield Detective James Graham and Special Agent Moody conducted a videotaped interview of Bland. Bland initially denied having been at the bank on the day of the robbery; he later admitted being in the bank, but only to obtain penny rolls for his mother. Bank employees said that no one had come to the bank asking for penny rolls on the day-or even the week-of the robbery. During the videotaped interview, Graham used various ruses and false statements-e.g., falsely telling Bland that the police found marked bills in Bland's personal belongings. Bland was interviewed a second time on April 7, this time by FBI Agents Moody and Pyle.

On June 2, 2005, a grand jury indicted Bland on one count of armed bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), one count of carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2). The district court granted Bland's motion to sever the possession count, and a jury trial on the bank robbery and § 924(c) counts commenced on December 5, 2005.

The basic sequence of events comprising the robbery was uncontested at trial; the central issue was identification. Some of the eyewitness testimony on that point was inconsistent. Anderson thought the robber had a thin mustache, Huntington thought he had a goatee, and Brown said he was clean-shaven. Anderson identified Bland as the robber both in the photo lineup and in court. Friedrich, though confident she had correctly identified the robber previously in the photo array, could not say at trial that Bland was definitely the robber. Huntington, who had picked someone else from the photo array, positively identified Bland in court as the robber.

Bland's girlfriend, Candice Burton, also testified at trial to explain her activities with Bland on the day of the crime. She said Bland accompanied her to a dental appointment in the morning but left, ostensibly to get his car jumped. When Bland rejoined her later at his mother's house, she heard him tell his sister that he wanted her to "put some money up" for him. Burton also testified that she and Bland went shopping later that day with Bland's sister. Although he was unemployed, Bland gave his sister and Burton $200 apiece, in $100 bills, to spend. He also paid cash for clothing and Air Jordan basketball shoes for himself. Detective Graham also testified at trial, among other law enforcement witnesses. He authenticated the videotape of the interview he and Special Agent Moody conducted of Bland, and admitted to using lies and other ruses during that interview.

The jury returned verdicts of guilty on both counts. On January 19, 2006, before Bland was sentenced, a local newspaper ran an article reporting that the Illinois State Police were investigating allegations of misconduct against Detective Graham involving three cases in 1999 and another in 1994. The 1994 case purportedly involved his withholding of interview reports and intimidating a witness in a murder case. Alerted to this information, the Assistant U.S. Attorney responsible for Bland's case sent a letter dated January 23, 2006, to the Springfield Police Department requesting the investigative files related to Graham. The materials (eventually numbering over 4000 pages) were reviewed by the Assistant U.S. Attorney, and on May 1, 2006, the government filed a disclosure statement advising the district court that the files contained no Brady material and therefore did not warrant in camera review. The court invited a response from Bland, but he did not respond. He did not request to examine the materials, ask the court to review the files in camera, or move for a new trial. The district court then entered an order directing the government to disclose any material relating to Bland or his case. Beyond that, however, the court said no further action regarding the files was required, in light of "the substantial evidence of Defendant's guilt presented at trial" and the fact that "other evidence corroborated Detective Graham's testimony."

The government responded that none of the materials in the Graham misconduct investigation concerned Bland or the bank robbery for which he stood convicted. The case then proceeded to sentencing. Bland was sentenced to a total of 147 months' imprisonment-63 months for the bank robbery and 84 months ...

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