7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: United States of America v. Monica Wright
Case No.: 22-2922
Officials: Flaum, Ripple, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Sufficiency of Evidence- Conflict of Interest with Attorney
Pfister and Evans were involved in methamphetamine distribution in Illinois. Throughout 2016, they made around 20 trips to Colorado to purchase meth from Wright. After Evans sold several ounces of meth to Heavener, law enforcement officers searched Heavener’s residence and discovered over 50 grams of meth. Heavener was aware that Evans obtained the meth from a source referred to as “Monica” in Colorado.
Wright faced charges related to the intent to distribute a minimum of 50 grams of pure meth and at least 500 grams of a mixture containing meth. She retained the services of Garfinkel as her legal counsel. In their opening statement, the prosecution outlined their intent to present testimony from witnesses such as Evans, Pfister, Heavener, and Deherrera, who acted as a middleman based in Colorado. Garfinkel also indicated that Deherrera would be a key witness for the government. However, during the trial, the government informed the court that Deherrera had alleged that Garfinkel had pressured him to alter his testimony. The government mentioned the possibility of Deherrera providing potentially exculpatory testimony but stated that they no longer intended to call him as a witness. They noted that if Wright chose to call Deherrera to the stand and he testified about being coerced to change his testimony, Garfinkel would need to testify to challenge his credibility. Garfinkel denied Deherrera’s accusations. The court questioned Wright, who confirmed her agreement with Garfinkel’s decision not to call Deherrera as a witness, acknowledging the potential for personal bias on Garfinkel’s part. Consequently, Deherrera did not testify during the trial.
In the closing arguments, Garfinkel referred to Deherrera’s absence as the missing link, asserting that it was a burden the government had to overcome in order to secure Wright’s conviction. Ultimately, Wright was found guilty and sentenced to 264 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit upheld the conviction, finding no conflict of interest and sufficient evidence to support the conspiracy charges.