Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sentencing -- What is Just?

3 recent decisions from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals have reversed and remanded sentences because they were too light and disregarded the Setencing Guidelines:

US v. Coughlin, No. 06-3294
A successful and prominent Wal-Mart executive's no-imprisonment sentence for aiding and abetting wire fraud and filing false tax returns is reversed and remanded where: 1) the district court clearly erred in finding defendant suffers an extraordinary physical impairment and abused its discretion by departing downward eight levels pursuant to U.S.S.G. section 5H1.4; and 2) in imposing an alternative non-Guidelines sentence, the lower court did not state the reasons for the sentence with sufficient specificity and relied on ordinarily irrelevant, and discouraged, grounds in reaching the sentence. Read more...

US v. Hatcher, No. 06-2814, 06-3099, 06-2819, 06-3098
Defendants' sentences for a series of armed robberies are vacated and remanded pursuant to the government's challenge where the sentences were unreasonable since the district court gave significant weight to an improper factor, the severity of consecutive sentences imposed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. section 924(c). Read more...

US v. Bradford, No. 06-3018
A sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute marijuana is vacated and remanded for resentencing where: 1) the Guidelines expressly limit the extent of a departure to a single criminal history level when the district court determines that the offender's criminal history score is overstated; and 2) thus, the district court erred when it departed by five levels as none of the other factors it cited justified the extent of the departure at hand. Read more...

I applaud the 8th Circuit Court's insistence that the Sentencing Guidelines be correctly applied. Too many criminals are doing too little time in prison because of plea bargains and Judges who don't have the gumption to deal just sentences.

In the current Michael Vick case, rumors are that the Judge who will sentence Vick has already told Vick that he is not obligated to accept Vick's plea deal. He is expected by the commentators to give Vick closer to the maximum sentence, if not the maximum.

Yes, Vick appears to be genuinely sorry. But that's not extraordinary -- he should be sorry. He should be very sorry. He let a lot of people down. He engaged in a particularly revolting crime -- dog fighting. When caught, he initially lied. Yes, he has a great deal to be sorry about.

Yes, he appears to be cooperating with law enforcement to help close down other dog fighting rings. But that's not extraordinary -- he should share what he knows as part of his debt to society.

Too many criminals are not getting any prison time at all because of plea deals, and too many other criminals are not getting the sentences their crimes warrant.

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