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10-1831 U.S. v. Mitchell

Criminal Procedure

Right to counsel

It did not violate a defendant’s right to counsel for the court to make disparaging remarks about how many different lawyers he had had.

“We agree that it would be constitutionally problematic for a district court to punish a defendant at sentencing for the exercise of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. But that is not what happened here. While the district court’s reference to ‘using lawyers like most people use Kleenex’ could be misinterpreted, we believe the reference to Mitchell’s relationship with his lawyers was merely an example of what was readily apparent from the record: that Mitchell ‘was willing to manipulate things and overpower others so that you can do pretty much what you want to, and you’re not held accountable for it.’”

“Moreover, any possible error in the district court’s reference to the history of Mitchell’s representation by four successive attorneys would not be plain error because it was not prejudicial. See United States v. Miller, 601 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 2010). Mitchell’s interaction with his attorneys was but one minor factor among a slew of major factors establishing his manipulative character and his ultimate sentence. The district court correctly calculated a guideline range of life imprisonment based on the murder cross-reference, and the finding that Mitchell participated in the murder of a government witness was clearly the driving factor in its sentence. The court also found a life sentence appropriate because Mitchell’s extensive criminal history indicated that reform was unlikely at best, and because Mitchell lacked remorse for both the crime of conviction and the murder of a witness. Further, Mitchell points out that the district court’s knowledge of his interactions with his attorneys came exclusively from the docket showing the changes of attorney, but this only suggests that the number of attorneys Mitchell went through was not a significant factor in the sentence because the district court likely formed its opinion of Mitchell’s relationship with his attorneys based on its evaluation of his character, and not vice versa.”


10-1831 U.S. v. Mitchell

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Barker, J., Manion, J.

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