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February 15, 2005

Curious grants of new trials based on Booker

A reader this morning passed along two notable Booker decisions issued earlier this month which have only recently come on-line. In parallel rulings in two fraud cases, US v. Williams, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1980 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 4, 2005), and US v Rohira, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1981 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 4, 2005), Senior US District Judge Ann Aldrich relies upon Booker to grant defendants a new trial because, to quote from the Williams opinion headings, the "Jury Was Never Expressly Charged with Finding the Amount of Loss beyond a reasonable doubt and Agent's Unreliable Estimate Probably Tainted their Deliberation on That Issue" and "Unreliable Loss Estimate Likely Influenced Jurors' Decision on Guilt or Innocense [sic]" and "Jury's Consideration of Amount of Loss at Trial Is Inextricably Linked to Its Consideration of that Same Issue at Sentencing."

Based on a quick read, I fear that these rulings may be reading too much into Booker because of broader concerns the court may have about convictions apparently based on shaky evidence. (In a footnote, the court states: "The prosecution's use of this deeply flawed estimate of a central fact [the amount of fraud loss] may constitute grounds for a new trial independent of Booker and Blakely.")  But the decisions still serve as a sober reminder of the concerns and potential confusions raised by Sixth Amendment issues and the Booker court's distinctive and curious resolution of such issues.

February 15, 2005 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

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