536 F.2d 637 (7th Cir. 1976), 75-1718, United States v. Chaussee

Docket Nº:75-1718, 75-1973.
Citation:536 F.2d 637
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Merle Lyle CHAUSSEE, Defendant-Appellant. [*]
Case Date:September 15, 1976
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 637

536 F.2d 637 (7th Cir. 1976)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Merle Lyle CHAUSSEE, Defendant-Appellant. [*]

Nos. 75-1718, 75-1973.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

September 15, 1976

Argued June 2, 1976.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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James E. Dull, Mt. Vernon, Ill., for defendant-appellant.

Henry A. Schwarz, U.S. Atty., Walter E. Schroeder, Asst. U.S. Atty., Belleville, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before TONE and WOOD, Circuit Judges, and GRANT, Senior District Judge.*

HARLINGTON WOOD, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Appellant Merle Lyle Chaussee, hereinafter referred to as the defendant, was convicted of the crime of aggravated battery on a government reservation in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 7 and 13, the Assimilative Crimes Act, and Illinois Revised Statutes, Chapter 38, Sec. 12-4. Defendant asserts on appeal that: 1) a mistrial should have been declared by the trial court; 2) the results of a mental examination conducted pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4244, should have been disclosed to him; 3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel; and 4) the sentence imposed by the trial court was incorrect and excessive. 1

  1. Mistrial Issue

    The facts are not in dispute. On the morning of the second day of his two day trial, the defendant, just before court opened but in the presence of the jury, attempted to escape from the courtroom. The defendant jumped from his seat at counsel table and bolted through the courtroom door into the hall where he was captured by Marshals and returned. At the time of his attempted escape one of the jurors was heard to utter the word "guilty." The trial judge who had not yet entered the courtroom, upon being advised of this occurrence conducted a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine what had happened. The defendant moved for a mistrial on the grounds that since the jury had witnessed the event, the defendant could not thereafter receive a fair trial. This motion was denied, the trial judge indicating that he would not allow a defendant by a "bootstrap operation" to bring a halt to his trial by his own misconduct. The jury was then brought back into court and admonished by the trial judge to disregard

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    those actions by the defendant which the jurors had just witnessed:

    ... Now ladies and gentlemen, I want to admonish you to not take into consideration any actions of this defendant other than of course, what has transpired here on the witness stand, but any actions of this defendant other than on the witness stand should not be taken into consideration by you the jury in determining the guilt or innocence of this defendant on this trial.... (Tr. 110)

    Defendant asserts that the denial of his motion for a mistrial deprived him of his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Defendant argues that the court's instruction to the jury was not adequate and that in view of one juror's prejudicial utterance the court should have made inquiry to determine the existence of any prejudice among the jurors.

    The Government defends the denial of a motion for a mistrial on the policy basis that a defendant by his own intentional misconduct should not be permitted to prevent the completion of his trial. The Government also contends that the one juror's utterance did not necessarily indicate that the juror had thereby reached a verdict without regard to the evidence and in disregard of the court's instructions, given both immediately after the occurrence, as already noted, and at the close of all the evidence. 2

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    The judge fully informed himself as to what had occurred, assessed its impact on the jury and promptly admonished the jury to disregard the defendant's misconduct. Again at the conclusion of all the evidence the judge fully instructed the jury that it was their sworn obligation not to base a verdict of guilty upon anything other than the evidence. There is no reason to assume or speculate that the court's instructions relating to defendant's trial conduct were not efficacious. United States v. Marshall, 458 F.2d 446 (2d Cir.1972).

    The evidence that the defendant had stabbed another inmate of the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, without provaction was overwhelming, yet the jury deliberated for approximately five hours before returning its verdict of guilty. It cannot be said the jury did not conscientiously

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    consider the evidence in the light of the court's instructions.

    The defendant now contends that the judge should have made inquiry of the members of the jury in an effort to determine specifically whether or not any prejudice resulted from the defendant's attempted escape. Under some circumstances such a procedure may be advisable, but defendant made no such request at the time.

    Prior to this attempted escape during the course of the trial the defendant interrupted the proceedings by addressing abusive comments at a testifying witness. The court excused the jury and advised the defendant:

    Mr. Chaussee, I don't know how to say this to you other than the fact that it's your trial and I want to give you a fair trial, sir. And I hope you will act accordingly. (Tr. 19)

    Thus, the defendant was admonished by the court about the possible effects his conduct might have upon his trial. Later he made his effort to escape. The fault lies with the defendant, not with the court or the jury. To allow a defendant by his own misconduct to terminate his trial even temporarily would be to allow him to profit from his own wrong.

    In his concurring opinion in Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 349, 90 S.Ct. 1057, 25 L.Ed.2d 353 (1969), Mr. Justice Brennan quotes with approval Falk v. United States, 15 App.D.C. 446 (1899), a case in which the defendant was more successful in fleeing than Mr. Chaussee:

    "It does not seem to us to be consonant with the dictates of common sense that an accused person ... should be at liberty, whenever he pleased, ... to break up a trial already commenced. The practical result of such a proposition, if allowed to be law, would be to prevent any trial whatever until the accused...

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