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United States of America v. William Hagler

November 21, 2012


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No. 10 CR 51--William C. Lee, Judge.

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


Before POSNER, KANNE, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

On August 15, 2000, two men unsuccessfully tried to rob a bank in Woodburn, Indiana. They fled before police could arrive, and, for years, they remained at large. Then, in 2008, new DNA tests cracked the case and tied defendant William Hagler to the crime. Hagler was indicted for attempted bank robbery, and a jury found him guilty. Hagler now appeals, arguing that the government waited too long to indict him, that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, and that new DNA testing entitles him to a new trial. We affirm.


On August 15, 2000, George Townsend awoke in the morning and drove to work in Fort Wayne, Indiana--as he did almost every morning. When he arrived, he parked his white Pontiac Bonneville in a nearby lot and went inside. When he came back out for lunch, the car was gone. All that remained in its place was a pile of broken glass.

About fifteen miles away in Woodburn, Indiana, George Townsend's Pontiac slowly came to a stop next to a branch of the National City Bank. Two armed men stepped out. Wearing gloves, dark clothes, and Halloween masks, they stormed inside the bank. "You know what this is," one of the men told the frightened customers and employees. The other crossed the room and made his way toward the vault. Their operation clearly had been planned in advance. But the two would-be Dillingers had a defect in their plan: they had no idea how to open the bank's vault. When this obvious oversight dawned on them, their nerve failed; they fled without taking a dime and made their getaway before police could arrive.

When police made it to the scene, they took statements from the bank's customers, the bank's employees, and several other witnesses who had watched the attempted robbery from outside the bank. Witnesses also provided descriptions of the getaway car. Later that day, police found George Townsend's Pontiac idling in a trailer park on the western edge of town. One of the back win- dows had been smashed in, and its steering column was broken open. Inside the automobile's cabin, police found Halloween masks, yellow-orange gloves, a fleece jacket, and a gray sweatshirt. Townsend arrived later and identified the car. He also confirmed that the masks, gloves, and jackets did not belong to him. A woman who witnessed the robbery also came to see the Pontiac and identified it as the car used in the robbery.

Police swept the car for forensic evidence. Investigators recovered several latent prints from the automobile. However, for reasons not disclosed in the record, the fingerprints were not immediately analyzed. Investi- gators also recovered a human hair from the gloves found in the car and a DNA sample from one of the masks. An analysis of the hair detected some DNA but not enough for a full profile. The sample from the mask showed a "mixed, " partial profile, meaning the sample contained incomplete DNA sequences from at least two people. The profile was uploaded to Indiana's DNA database on May 25, 2001 and immediately started reg- istering multiple "hits" (i.e., automatic reports of potential matches) on unknown individuals. The profile remained on the database until 2007, when it was removed for collecting too many hits. The proceedings below did not determine how many "hits" the DNA profile collected before it was removed, but both sides represent, based on evidence presented in a companion case involving Hagler's brother, that the number was about forty. Without a definitive DNA identification, the case went cold.

Things heated up again in 2008, when the Indiana State Police upgraded its equipment to allow for more sensitive DNA testing and received grant funding to revisit old cases. Investigators eventually worked their way back to this case. A DNA analyst retested the hair taken from the glove, and this time she was able to extract a complete DNA profile. When she uploaded it, the database "hit" on Hagler. Police picked him up and collected a fresh DNA sample to confirm the initial test. Hagler's DNA indeed matched the DNA found in the getaway car. Investigators also retested the sample taken from the mask. This time, the test was able to distinguish a "major contributor" from a "minor con- tributor" in the mixed profile. The major contributor's DNA profile was uploaded to Indiana's DNA database and hit on William Hagler's brother Shawn Hagler (We will refer to William Hagler as "Hagler" and Shawn Hagler as "Shawn" to avoid confusion). The minor con- tributor's profile contained insufficient genetic informa- tion to allow for a match. Armed with this evidence, police also reviewed the latent fingerprints lifted from the stolen car. Of the seven recovered prints, only one was of sufficient quality for analysis. It matched Hagler.

Hagler and his brother Shawn were first indicted for one count of attempted robbery (see 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 & 2113) on October 28, 2009, but the district court later dismissed the indictment without prejudice in light of Bloate v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 1345 (2010). A second grand jury indicted both men again on July 28, 2010, giving rise to this case. Hagler moved to dismiss the indictment as barred by the statute of limitations and unreasonable delay, but the district court denied his motions. Because Shawn was not arrested until November 11, 2010,

Hagler was tried first. Shawn's case is still pending in the district court.

At Hagler's trial, the government presented several witnesses to the robbery. Although they disagreed on some of the details, the witnesses generally identified the perpetrators as two black males wearing dark clothing and Halloween masks. Four witnesses also described the getaway car as a white, four-door sedan consistent with George Townsend's Pontiac, and one specifically identified Townsend's car as the one used in the robbery. A resident of the trailer park testified that, on the morning of the attempted robbery, he saw two black males drive into the trailer park in a dark car, transfer some materials into a white car, and drive off. Stacy Gray, a physical security consultant for the bank, testified that the bank was FDIC insured at the time of the robbery. The government also presented testimony from Connie Evans Hanley, the mother of two children by Hagler. Hanley testified that, around December 1998, she and Hagler were talking in the Woodburn trailer park together when Hagler mentioned how easy it would be to rob a bank in Woodburn because the town was so lightly policed. Finally, the government introduced evidence that Hagler's fingerprints were found on the getaway car and that his DNA was found inside it.

Hagler elected not to present evidence of his own, and the jury convicted him of one count of attempted bank rob- bery. He now appeals, challenging the timeliness of his prosecution, the sufficiency of the evidence against him, and the district court's ...

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