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October 7, 2004

West coast time

I am on my way to the airport again, heading out to California to participate in the exciting Blakely event organized by Professor Robert Weisberg starting tomorrow at Stanford Law School (discussed here). Professor Wesiberg has described the event, entitled "The Future of American Sentencing: A National Roundtable on Blakely," in this way:

Through a series of presentations and panel discussions , and culminating in a set of working papers, the Roundtable will consider such broad themes as whether the Court has offered a coherent rationale for the relationship between the Sixth Amendment and sentencing; what types of types of judicial, legislative, and administrative remedies will satisfy Blakely; and the more aspirational question whether Blakely might ultimately prove a boon to the widespread national movement for sentencing reform that has evolved in the wake of, and in substantial tension with, the advent of modern guidelines sentencing.

I fly through North Carolina, and a long day of travel will likely mean no more posts today. I hope to have internet connectivity at my hotel and/or during the conference, though my west-coast blogging may be light because of a focus on the conference and related activities.

October 7, 2004 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

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I am a wife of a innocent man who is a victim of this sentencing catastrophy. My husband was brought into a conspiracy of about 30 people both domestic and international. He and only two other men went to court to prove there innocence. They prosecutors told him that if he went to court they where going to ask for an inhansment in his sentencing. During the trial the judge would not let the defense hardly defend their case but allowed the prosecutors all privledges. My husband was not tried seperatly. He was tried with the two other defendants and all but maybe one short day of a week trial was he even included in this presentation before a jury. The hear say witnesses told two different stories and that really didn't make since. I spoke with one attorney afterwards that had set in on the case the first few days and told me that he didn't see how they even where able to have a case to present in court in the first place. We had every bit of proof on paper and witnesses to show that my husband did not have a part of this conspiracy. During the trial my husbands sixth amendment was violated and our attorney Mr. John Freisell repeatedly asked for a mistrial and The Honorable Judge Harmon denied it several times and told him she was not going to grant it to him and he will have to take it up with the fifth circuit. The jury was not correctly instructed before they went to deside there verdict. The leader of this conspiracy pleaed guilty and got a maximum of 8 years and a $250,000.00 fine. Most of the rest of the defendants on this case pleaed out and are walking the streets. Please look into this case my husband is looking at life in prision. And he is the only one that has no part of this conspiracy. Please we need your help I have been sending out for help and no one will respond. After the trial another attorney looked and my husband and said with tears in his eyes and with shock in his voice and said "Mr. Ginns I just want to shake your hand because I have just watched you get ripped apart by this court and it is obvious that you did not have any reason to be apart of this trial or conspiracy. Also after the trial was over ABC labeled my husband along with two othet men as running the largest extacy ring in Houston. Please don't turn me away I am begging for your help. We have 3 young beautiful kids who are ages know 5, 8, 8. They including myself miss him very much and he deserves to be home with his family. But this children may never see there father again. I have had to put one of our sons in therapy because of all of this. Please I beg of you help us. It is in Houston, Texas; Case #02577, Defendant 18, Ronnie Lee Ginns; inmate #14312179; Federal Court House (Southern District of Texas) He is in the Federal Detention Center on Texas Avenue. Please help us. I am desparte. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this, please don't ingnor this cry for help. There are multipul lives at stake. Sincerely, Shalee Ginns, P.S. I appologize for the miss spells I wrote this in a hurry and did not have time to go back over it. I am at work and try to fit this in between working and taking care of the house and our kids.

Posted by: Leigh | Oct 7, 2004 12:03:15 PM

Leigh- I am sorry for what you are going through but I wanted to respond because my family is going through almost the very same thing. Although we are not suffering with the same level of sentence, it is still a significant double digit sentence and is essentially a lifetime. I want you to know that we also have experienced first hand the frightening power of the DOJ and the abuse of the conspiracy charges and evidence control available to them. We also had written evidence that contradicted the government witnesses’ testimony but supposedly written evidence and verbal testimony are up to the jury to believe or not and neither has inherently greater weight. We also had prosecutors lie to the jury about our loved one’s intent and character, but apparently, if there is one person that would back up those lies regardless of the volume of evidence contradicting it, the prosecutor is allowed to state the one liars’ version as fact without any penalty or attack of conscience. We are also waiting for relief in the appellate process but no one will give us any strong hope. I was shocked throughout the entire process because I always thought the job of a government lawyer was to work for the good of citizens- not to make a name for themselves or push through a political agenda- how terribly naïve of us. I thought that we had the strict protection of the government having to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” and they were the only ones that had to meet that burden but that was a false comfort too. Juries are presumed to be objective but too often, they are not.

I think that we all as citizens let the DOJ take more and more control of this system never believing we might be impacted, believing that only the guilty get charged and now that too many within the DOJ have lost all discretion, and with their frightening ability to create evidence through bargained testimony to support a conspiracy charge, we are having to cry out for help that no one can give. We let this happen thinking it would only affect the “bad people” but it is ruining the lives of so many good people too. Personally, we are encouraging our friends and family to write their congressman and their senators about the injustice of mandatory minimums and the senselessness of some of these guidelines. Unfortunately, there has been no real response although hundreds of letters and e-mails have been sent.. our government at “work”. As I write this, I recognize that we are probably still naively clinging to something that has not made it’s appearance yet in this entire process – reason and humanity- but I ask you though not to give up hope for the sake of your children and your husband. I visit our loved one every week and the families I see there are not the kingpin or mafia type people I thought we’d see- these are people struggling to keep some semblance of their family bond in tact. It is terribly hard to try to keep going when your life is torn apart facing these vicious sentences in the federal system and knowing it is so wrong. I am so saddened to see the harsh tears shed of spouses and children when seeing their loved one because I know that is someone new- not knowing how they will get to the next week. There is such a high rate of bankruptcies and children in foster care for families of people incarcerated that you are doing a tremendous thing in just keeping what is left of your family together. I can only encourage you and everyone you know to write your representatives, write FAMM.org and pray for some sense and humanity to find it’s way back into this horrible system that entrenched itself while none of us were paying attention. We are still clinging to hope. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

Posted by: Non-Lawyer | Oct 7, 2004 5:33:21 PM

I'm with you, Leigh and Non-Lawyer. I just returned tonight from seeing my 70 yo Dad in an FCI. Not nearly enough room here to tell how the system has been perverted against the truth for political gain. Pray the Supremes see fit to craft a just solution. You're not alone. Not by a long shot. Hope is all we have to cling to anymore, because the feds have taken everything else, and I'm sure that promotions are in line for them all.

Posted by: horrified observer | Oct 7, 2004 10:10:23 PM

Thank you Non-Lawyer for your kind words and information. And thank you also horrified observer for your words of incouragement. What is said is that the guards at these places have even noticed how many of these people should not be in there. And I had an attorney tell me that it really upsets him. Because the FBI spends years and millions of the tax payers money on wathching the big guys and then when they finally catch them they cut them sweet deals (cause they have all the money) and then they pen it on the innocent that some how got pulled into this because they needed someone to pin it on. And it happens over and over again. Money is power and that is what rules the world. Please if you find anymore information let me know and I will do the same for you. Thank you, again.

Posted by: Leigh | Oct 8, 2004 12:44:50 PM

You know you never realize just how many people have lives that so closely parallel your own until something like this happens. I never even thought about the lives and situations faced by those people caught in the web of our criminal in-justice system until it affected me.

The prosecuting attorney in our case told us that conspiracy would be the easiest charge to convict anyone on; he said that people generally have negative views of one another and so are more inclined to believe the worst. I know that the system must change and I don’t think that a small change will suffice, what type of message is being sent when a man with a wife and three children can be sent to prison for life for what, maybe $50,000 to $100.000 but multi millionaires are given a few months stay in the federal correctional facility of there choosing and subsequent house arrest. Yes we do have sentencing guidelines but can we truly say that they insure equal treatment.

Leigh, I know that its hard but we aren’t alone this battle will be won and we will win the war that inevitably will come.

Posted by: Just Keep Believing | Oct 8, 2004 3:50:37 PM

To the wife of Ronnie Ginns. I just got out of a federal prison in Beaumont. And I do see the injustice but we have to remember that Mr. Ginns like myself make choices in life, and the bad choices carry consequences. The organization that Mr. Ginns was "associated" with was a major Extasy traffiking organization responsible for ruining the lives of many individuals. I understand that he has 3 kids, because I had a 5 year old daughter when I went away. But I realized that prison is a consequence of a criminal lifestyle. We all must think before we act. And if someone values his family he will get 2 or maybe 3 jobs to support them and not sell drugs. Thank you

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