7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: United States of America v. Tobias Diggs
Case No.: 22-1502
Officials: Scudder, Kirsch, and Jackson-Akiwumi, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Joint-participant Exception
When a jewelry store in Chicago opened its doors, Diggs and two other individuals emerged from a Lexus SUV displaying Michigan license plates. They entered the store with guns drawn, overpowered the security guard, and proceeded to handcuff him. They then forcibly took a sales associate to a rear room, where they restrained and assaulted her with a pistol. Another member of the group encountered a different sales associate, brandished a firearm, and confined her in a bathroom. Meanwhile, a fourth individual named McClellan remained in the Lexus, listening to the events of the robbery on his cell phone, before driving away with the men and over $400,000 worth of watches and jewelry.
Diggs and McClellan were tried jointly and subsequently convicted, while two other individuals involved in the incident remained at large. Prior to the trial, the court denied the spousal testimonial privilege to Diggs’s wife, Adams, who had been his girlfriend at the time of the robbery. The court ruled that Adams fell under the joint-participant exception, as evidence indicated that she became a co-conspirator on the day of the robbery and only distanced herself several days later when she informed the police that Diggs had used her vehicle for the robbery.
The Seventh Circuit upheld this decision. After assessing Adams’s testimony in the context of “all other trial events,” it was determined that an average juror would not significantly alter their perspective of the government’s case even without her testimony. Furthermore, the admission of purportedly hearsay testimony by a DHS agent was deemed to be a harmless error.