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United States v. Thomas

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 20, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KEON THOMAS and STYLES TAYLOR, Defendants-Appellants

Argued April 22, 2015.

Page 706

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 01 CR 73 -- James T. Moody, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (13-2814): David E. Hollar, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Hammond, IN.

For Keon Thomas, Defendant - Appellant (13-2814): Alison L. Benjamin, Attorney, Paul Gerald Stracci, Attorney, Johnson Stracci & Ivancevich Llp, Merrillville, IN.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (13-3469): David E. Hollar, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Hammond, IN.

For Styles Taylor, Defendant - Appellant (13-3469): Johanna M. Christiansen, Attorney, Thomas W. Patton, Attorney, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Peoria, IL.

Before POSNER and KANNE, Circuit Judges, and DARRAH, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 707

Posner, Circuit Judge.

In 2000 an almost totally deaf 73-year-old, the federally licensed owner of a gun store in Hammond, Indiana, was shot to death and the store robbed of many of its guns. Taylor and Thomas, the appellants, were indicted for the murder and robbery and in 2004 convicted by a jury of a variety of federal crimes, including murder in the course of a robbery, and were sentenced to life in prison. The convictions were vacated in 2011 because of a possible violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), arising from the government's striking a black juror in the first trial. United States v. Taylor, 636 F.3d 901 (7th Cir. 2011). Retried in 2012, both defendants were again convicted and again sentenced to life imprisonment.

The defendants were drug dealers in Hammond. Their drug dealing was not yielding them significant profits, and they discussed robbery as a way of increasing their income. Plaster casts of tire tracks next to the gun store, made by the police shortly after the murder was discovered, indicated that the tracks could have been created by Thomas's Cadillac. And a couple of days after the murder Taylor told a 14-year-old girl named Precious Walker that he and a man named Bud White had killed the proprietor of the gun store and taken guns from the store. Taylor made a similar confession to a jeweler.

As a result of searches, and a seizure of guns during a traffic stop, a number of guns stolen from the gun store during the robbery were traced to Taylor and Thomas. Thomas admitted to investigators that the Cadillac that had been used in the robbery was his, though he denied his own involvement in the murder or robbery.

At trial the government called Montrell, Taylor's brother, who had turned 15 shortly after the murder, as a witness. Admitting that he would lie or die for his brother, Montrell testified that neither Taylor nor Thomas had ever confessed to him about being involved in the murder or ...


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