Published on: Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Seventh Circuit held a defendant is entitled to a better explanation concerning why his pretrial release was revoked despite some violations of his release conditions (article available here).

Lashawn Wilks was granted bond while awaiting trial on charges related to distributing methamphetamine. His release stipulated that he couldn’t leave his home except to go to work and he couldn’t associate with his co-defendants. He was also required to report any contacts he had with law enforcement personnel.

The court allowed Wilks to travel to Southern Illinois July 2-6 to attend medical appointments, a family wedding on July 3, and attend church with his family on July 4. 

Around 2 a.m. on July 4, Wilks was filmed in a bar socializing with one of his co-defendants. A few minutes later, a man was shot and killed on the bar’s patio. Although Wilks was not a suspect in the killing, he did interact with the police  on the scene.

The government argued that because Wilks socialized with a co-defendant and didn’t report his contact with the police, his bond should be revoked. The district court agreed and held that immediate incarceration was needed to assure that Wilks would appear in court and to safeguard public welfare.

The appeals court reversed, finding the lower court did not find by clear and convincing evidence that Wilks violated a condition of his release and the lower court failed to explain why detention was necessary. "A finding that the defendant violated a release conditon does not alone permit revocation." 

The case is United States v. Wilks, No. 21-2559 (7th Cir. Oct. 12, 2021).