United States v. Jackson, No. 18-3534 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Southern Illinois Drug Task Force investigated Jackson and his associates. After a confidential source (CS) completed three controlled drug purchases from Jackson, each recorded via an audiovisual device, agents obtained a warrant and raided Jackson’s residence. They found methamphetamine, other drugs, cash, scales, and multiple loaded firearms. Jackson had previously twice pleaded guilty to felony drug charges and faced a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment on count 4. The government determined not to call the CS as a witness. The judge admitted into evidence the recordings showing the CS purchasing drugs from Jackson. In a pretrial hearing, the judge noted that he had no discretion to modify the mandatory life sentence for a conviction on count 4. Jackson stated that, contrary to his lawyer’s advice, he wished to proceed to trial. The jury found Jackson guilty of counts 1 through 4. The First Step Act, Pub. L. 115-391, then became law, reducing the mandatory minimum sentence for 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A)(viii) (Jackson’s count 4) from life to 25 years. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Jackson’s convictions and life sentence, rejecting arguments that the government failed to lay the appropriate foundation before the recordings were admitted; the investigators should not have been allowed to “narrate” portions of the recordings; and that admission of the recordings without the CS’s presence and testimony violated the Confrontation Clause. The First Step Act is not retroactive and Jackson’s sentence was not unreasonable.