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United States v. Tucker

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 11, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Lamar TUCKER, Defendant-Appellant.

Argued Nov. 4, 2013.

Page 1091

Kartik K. Raman, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Christopher Keleher, Attorney, Westmont, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before EASTERBROOK, KANNE, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

Police officers found a Sears Roebuck rifle under a mattress in an apartment leased by Lamar Tucker's mother. Tucker was convicted of possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term of at least a year. He now appeals, arguing the evidence was insufficient to establish that he constructively possessed the rifle, and that he was denied a fair trial because the district court indicated it would admit evidence of his six prior felonies if he chose to testify. Neither claim is valid.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 21, 2010, Chicago police officers obtained a warrant authorizing the search of 2950 West Harrison Street, Apartment 502. When they began searching the two-bedroom apartment, Tucker was not there, but his mother, Vanessa Tucker, and his niece, Tequillia Williams were. During the search, Officer Jason Edwards found a Sears Roebuck rifle under the mattress of a bunk bed in one of the bedrooms. Officer Edwards also recovered several documents bearing Tucker's name from under the bed. These documents included a letter from the IRS addressed to Tucker at 2950 West Harrison Street. In searching the apartment, officers also found $237 cash in the refrigerator, eight clear baggies of heroin inside a potato chip bag, as well as ammunition.

During the search, another officer apprehended Tucker a few blocks away. The officer detained Tucker and notified the searching officers. During a post-arrest interview, Officer Fred Caruso told Tucker that the officers had found a gun under Tucker's bed.[1] Tucker responded that the rifle was not his and that he was holding it for someone else. Tucker was charged with possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment longer than a year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(g)(1).

At trial, Tucker argued that he did not have a substantial connection to the apartment where the rifle was found and that the officers fabricated his post-arrest admissions.

In support of this defense, Tucker presented testimony from Vanessa Tucker

Page 1092

and Tequillia Williams. Vanessa Tucker testified that Tucker did not have keys to the apartment, was not listed on the apartment lease, and did not keep any of his things there, although he did visit from time to time. Tequillia Williams corroborated Vanessa Tucker's testimony, adding that a neighbor named " Pam" would bring Tucker's mail to Apartment 502. Officer Edwards testified in rebuttal that one of the searching officers ...


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