Seventh Circuit Review


Conspiracies that overlap in time, place, persons, and objectives are often charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a complex statutory scheme that criminalizes the on-going and multifaceted activities of illicit enterprises like the mob. Such prosecutions, however, are particularly susceptible to double jeopardy claims. The Constitution's double jeopardy clause protects defendants from multiple prosecutions or punishments for the same offense. Although the Supreme Court has held that this constitutional protection is a fundamental right, courts have struggled to establish guidelines for determining the parameters of the term "same offense." This struggle is at the heart of the recent Seventh Circuit case United States v. Schiro.

In Schiro, the court held that subordinate branches of the Chicago mob are individual and independent "enterprises." The rule allows a prosecutor to charge two separate conspiracies based on a single agreement because each involves an independent and separate enterprise, and therefore, a different element of the crime. The Schiro majority erred in dismissing the defendants' double jeopardy claims based on its arbitrary construction of the enterprise element, an approach at odds with the policies of RICO and double jeopardy. This Note demonstrates that by arbitrarily carving the mob's internal divisions into independent "enterprises," the Seventh Circuit has broadened the prosecutor's reach under an already expansive RICO statute and impermissibly narrowed defendants' constitutional double jeopardy rights.

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