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November 27, 2004

Feeney speaks about Blakely

This intriguing Orlando Sentinel article — which covers sentencing topics ranging from Florida's three strikes law to how cost concerns have prompted many states in recent years to reconsider mandatory-sentencing laws — includes some fascinating quotes from Tom Feeney, the US Representative from Florida who introduced the notorious Feeney Amendment to the 2003 PROTECT Act (details here from the NACDL). 

Not surprisingly, Rep. Feeney states, quite aggressively, that Congress could respond to invalidation of the federal guidelines by passing a raft of mandatory sentencing provisions.  But, somewhat surprisingly, Rep. Feeney also suggests he thinks some sentencing terms could be reduced.  Here are the Feeney highlights, which includes a brief defense of the Feeney Amendment, from the article:

"If they come down and undermine the whole way the sentencing guidelines work, the only option for Congress may have is to enact enhanced mandatory sentences," said U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, who has been a leader in Congress in passing tougher sentencing measures. "If the courts throw out the sentencing wholesale, we will have a really big battle."

Feeney is author of the Feeney Amendment, which pressures federal judges to stick to sentencing guidelines by forcing those who vary to explain why.
"What we were finding was the federal judiciary was blatantly -- overtly in some circuits -- almost totally ignoring the guidelines," he said. His provision has drawn harsh criticism, even from Supreme Court justices, who say it interferes with a judge's discretion to weigh factors such as a defendant's background and attitude.

Still, Feeney doesn't expect the court to totally reject federal sentencing rules.  "Most court analysts say you can expect the guidelines to be thrown out," Feeney said. "I think that's unlikely. I think they realize they could be going out of the kettle and into the fire. They do not trust Congress to come up with a better solution."...

But even Feeney, Bush's running mate in a 1994 race for governor, thinks some sentences should be lighter. "Mandatory sentences may be appropriate for some crimes but may not be appropriate for all crimes," Feeney said. "If you're not a massive pusher of drugs, what's the best approach? Throw you in prison, or try to rehabilitate you? That's a very legitimate debate."  Feeney, who railed against higher taxes as Florida House Speaker, said he's troubled by prison costs, even though Florida is in better financial shape than most states.

November 27, 2004 at 02:33 PM | Permalink

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I've read many interesting articles on this site ... haven't commented on each, however, I just wanted to acknowledge my appreciation for the information.

Posted by: Jennifer | Jan 11, 2005 11:08:06 AM

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