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March 16, 2005

Eighth Circuit also speaks on harmless error review

The Eighth Circuit reversal of a sentence as unreasonable today in Rogers (discussed here) is the biggest news of the day from that circuit.  However, I now see that the Eighth Circuit also issued a major decision today discussing post-Booker harmless error review in US v. Haidley, No. 04-3312 (8th Cir. Mar. 16, 2005) (available here).

In Haidley, the defendant had preserved a challenge to the guidelines, though her case did not raise a Sixth Amendment issue because she had admitted the amount of loss involved in the offense.  Explained the court:

The issue we face, then, may be framed as follows.  Is it harmless error to sentence a defendant under a mandatory federal sentencing guideline regime, as opposed to the Booker advisory system, when there is no Sixth Amendment issue as to the guideline computation and the defendant is sentenced at the bottom of the federal sentencing guideline range?  We conclude that it is not harmless error and that the present case must be remanded for resentencing under the discretionary system set out in Booker.

The Eighth Circuit's explanation of this harmless-error conclusion is interesting, as it (1) ducks the issue of whether application of mandatory guidelines is an error "of constitutional or nonconstitutional magnitude," (2) speaks broadly to issues made relevant by 3553(a), and (3) distinguishes the Eighth Circuit's questionable post-Booker ruling in Parsons (discussed here).

Relatedly, in two brief unpublished decisions, US v. Toelle, No. 04-3010 (8th Cir. Mar. 16, 2005) (available here) and US v. Alford, No. 04-3407 (8th Cir. Mar. 16, 2005) (available here), the Eighth Circuit remands for resentencing on the authority of Haidley.

March 16, 2005 at 08:13 PM | Permalink

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