U.S. v. Rodriguez, Nos. 79-2182

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore FAIRCHILD, Chief Judge, WOOD, Circuit Judge, and LARSON; HARLINGTON WOOD, Jr.; LARSON
Citation627 F.2d 110
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Miguel RODRIGUEZ, William Lara, and Jose Luis Pizarro, Defendants-Appellants.
Decision Date12 August 1980
Docket NumberNos. 79-2182,79-2183 and 79-2220

Page 110

627 F.2d 110
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Miguel RODRIGUEZ, William Lara, and Jose Luis Pizarro,
Defendants-Appellants.
Nos. 79-2182, 79-2183 and 79-2220.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued June 13, 1980.
Decided Aug. 12, 1980.

Michael G. Cheronis, Chicago, Ill., Michael B. Mann, Maywood, Ill., Nicholas A. DeJohn, Chicago, Ill., for defendants-appellants.

Thomas P. Sullivan, U. S. Atty., Michael Siegel, Asst. U. S. Atty., Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before FAIRCHILD, Chief Judge, WOOD, Circuit Judge, and LARSON, Senior District Judge. *

HARLINGTON WOOD, Jr., Circuit Judge.

A federal prosecutor in final argument has done it again. A mere reading of a portion of the trial transcript makes clear that his comments on defendants' failure to testify violated their rights under the Fifth Amendment and 18 U.S.C. § 3481. 1

Page 111

The following exchange took place during the government's rebuttal: 2

Mr. Hosteny: The last one that I want to go to for a few minutes is what we regard, and what you should regard, as the most important person in the case, and that is Jose Pizarro. Jose Pizarro throughout the trial has been very quiet at the end of counsel table

Mr. Cutrone: Objection.

Mr. Cheronis: Object.

Mr. Hosteny: Well, I mean, he's been at counsel table.

Mr. Cutrone: Motion for mistrial.

Mr. Cheronis: Motion for a mistrial on behalf of Mr. Rodriguez.

Mr. DeJohn: Join.

Mr. Hosteny: I will withdraw the other remark, Judge.

The Court: Yes.

Mr. Hosteny: He has been very quiet, quietly apparent throughout this case

Mr. Cutrone: Objection, if your Honor please.

Mr. DeJohn: Could we have a side bar, please?

The Court: Yes, I

Mr. DeJohn: It's very serious, Judge.

The Court: There is no purpose in a side bar. I understand what your objection is and counsel will proceed with his argument.

Mr. Hosteny: I will withdraw the remark, Judge.

Mr. DeJohn: Withdraw it? It's already said.

Mr. Cutrone: I move for a mistrial.

Mr. Cheronis: Move for a mistrial, Judge.

Mr. DeJohn: This man has constantly

The Court: Just a minute. I'm going to advise the jury that he has no

Mr. DeJohn: He is inferring that making it seem like there is something wrong with remaining silent

Mr. Cheronis: It affects all the defendants when the

The Court: Well, there are three of you and will you please sit down and I will advise the jury and I will advise them now that there was no obligation on any one of the defendants in this case to take the witness stand. Counsel for the government should have made no statement as to the fact that he was very quiet during this case. He had the right to be very quiet during this case. And it was improper for the government to make any such statement

Mr. Hosteny: I apologize, Judge. I am sorry.

The Court: You can talk about his counsel but not talk about him.

Mr. Cutrone: That's right. Talk about me. I've been very, very quiet.

The Court: All right, You may be seated now. You've made your statement and I've made mine and I want the jury to regard the statement that the government made, that he had been very quiet, if that has any indication to you that he should have spoken up, forget that because he had no obligation whatever to speak up during his case, at any time.

Mr. Cheronis: Judge, can that apply to all defendants?

The Court: Well, that does apply to each one of you, of the three defendants, and I've made that very clear and I will tell the jury again in the instructions, and so you may proceed on that basis.

Mr. Hosteny: Thank you, Judge. I'd like to apologize to the jury and to the Court and also to Mr. Cutrone and Mr. Pizarro.

During the government's rebuttal argument, the last opportunity of any counsel to

Page 112

address the jury, the prosecutor directly commented not once, but twice, on the trial silence of defendant Jose Pizarro. First, the prosecutor drew the attention of the jury to the fact that Pizarro "has been very quiet at the end of counsel table." Then, after objection and motion for a mistrial, the prosecutor withdrew the remark, but for some inexplicable reason promptly said it again. Pizarro, he said the second time, "has been very quiet, quietly apparent throughout this case." Another objection followed and another motion for mistrial was denied in favor of the trial judge's immediate instruction to the jury. The judge instructed that none of the defendants were obligated to take the witness stand and that there was a right "to be very quiet during this case." The instruction in addition specifically advised that there was no obligation on the part of any defendant to take the witness stand. Counsel for one of the other defendants then asked if the instruction could apply to all defendants. The trial judge repeated that his instruction applied to each of the three defendants, none of whom had testified. But the damage was already done and was irreparable.

Factually, there is nothing about this multiple count heroin case involving two other defendants, William Lara and Miguel Rodriguez, to distinguish it from a score of others. The jury found all three guilty. 3

We view the issue from a slightly different perspective than does a trial judge. The problem is not new. It continues to arise with disturbing frequency throughout this circuit despite the admonition of trial judges and this court. Usually it has been caused by subtle prosecutorial comments, e. g., that certain evidence is "uncontradicted." Even subtle references to the fact that a defendant has not testified have been condemned.

On February 27, 1979 in the case of United States v. Pleas Moody, No. 78-1981, an unpublished order, we called attention to our then recent decision, United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (1978), cautioning prosecutors about the use of improper arguments which draw even subtle attention to the failure of a defendant to testify. We cautioned against the use of terms such as "undisputed" and "uncontradicted" by the prosecutor in the case of a nontestifying defendant. It was pointed out that it is an area where the administration of justice will be served by avoiding arguably as well as blatantly improper comments. The final line of the order cautioned that continued failure to heed the admonition of this court would demonstrate that the admonition was ineffective, calling, therefore, for summary reversal. That unpublished order is not unknown to the United States Attorneys of this circuit. By order of Chief Judge Fairchild, the Clerk of this court forwarded a copy of the Moody order to each United States Attorney, directing attention to the warning it contained, together with this court's suggestion that United States Attorneys disseminate copies of the order to...

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22 practice notes
  • United States v. Hasting, No. 81-1463
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 23 Mayo 1983
    ...to be continuing violations of Griffin and § 3481. The court pointedly emphasized its own decision in United States v. Rodriguez, 627 F.2d 110 (CA7 1980), where it characterized the problem of prosecutorial comments on a defendant's silence as one which "continues to arise with disturbing f......
  • State v. Sena, NO. S-1-SC-36932 CONSOLIDATED WITH NO. S-1-SC-36933
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 25 Junio 2020
    ...comments." Id . at 982. Even drawing subtle attention to a defendant's failure to testify is not permissible. United States v. Rodriguez , 627 F.2d 110, 112 (7th Cir. 1980). In Rodriguez , the prosecutor commented that the defendant was "very quiet at the end of counsel table." Id . at 111.......
  • United States ex rel. Bradley v. Hartigan, No. 85-2128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
    • 24 Junio 1985
    ...14 L.Ed.2d 106 (1965); United States of America ex rel. Burke v. Greer, 756 F.2d 1295, 1300 (7th Cir.1985); United States v. Rodriguez, 627 F.2d 110, 111 (7th Cir.1980). It is also constitutionally impermissible for the prosecutor to indirectly refer to the defendant's failure to testify if......
  • People v. Neal, No. 57781
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 20 Diciembre 1985
    ...court properly rejected that argument. The question is not simply what the prosecutor intended (United States v. Rodriguez (7th Cir.1980), 627 F.2d 110), but whether, in fact, the comment "specifically refers" to the defendant's silence (People v. Ramirez (1983), 98 Ill.2d 439, 451, 75 Ill.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • United States v. Hasting, No. 81-1463
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 23 Mayo 1983
    ...to be continuing violations of Griffin and § 3481. The court pointedly emphasized its own decision in United States v. Rodriguez, 627 F.2d 110 (CA7 1980), where it characterized the problem of prosecutorial comments on a defendant's silence as one which "continues to arise with disturbing f......
  • State v. Sena, NO. S-1-SC-36932 CONSOLIDATED WITH NO. S-1-SC-36933
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • 25 Junio 2020
    ...comments." Id . at 982. Even drawing subtle attention to a defendant's failure to testify is not permissible. United States v. Rodriguez , 627 F.2d 110, 112 (7th Cir. 1980). In Rodriguez , the prosecutor commented that the defendant was "very quiet at the end of counsel table." Id . at 111.......
  • United States ex rel. Bradley v. Hartigan, No. 85-2128.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
    • 24 Junio 1985
    ...14 L.Ed.2d 106 (1965); United States of America ex rel. Burke v. Greer, 756 F.2d 1295, 1300 (7th Cir.1985); United States v. Rodriguez, 627 F.2d 110, 111 (7th Cir.1980). It is also constitutionally impermissible for the prosecutor to indirectly refer to the defendant's failure to testify if......
  • People v. Neal, No. 57781
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 20 Diciembre 1985
    ...court properly rejected that argument. The question is not simply what the prosecutor intended (United States v. Rodriguez (7th Cir.1980), 627 F.2d 110), but whether, in fact, the comment "specifically refers" to the defendant's silence (People v. Ramirez (1983), 98 Ill.2d 439, 451, 75 Ill.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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