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Sentencing — drug trafficking — death

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Sentencing — drug trafficking — death

A district court must make specific factual findings to determine whether each defendant’s relevant conduct encompasses the distribution chain that caused a victim’s death before applying the twenty-year penalty.

“[W]e join the consensus reached by other circuits and conclude that a district court generally need not find death reasonably foreseeable for the mandatory minimum sentence to apply in cases where a defendant directly distributes drugs or uses intermediaries to distribute drugs that result in death. But like the Houston court, we hesitate to characterize this liability as absolutely ‘strict.’ And like the Swiney court, we hold that a district court must find the distribution chain that ultimately led to an individual’s death to be relevant conduct under § 1B1.3(a)(1)(B) before a defendant can receive the twenty-year penalty.”

Affirmed in part, and Vacated in part.

10-2173, 10-2176, 10-2355, 11-1024 & 11-1510 U.S. v. Walker

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stadtmueller, J., Williams, J.

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