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March 3, 2005

Martha reportedly says: "I just hate these sentencing guidelines."

Laurie Cohen has this front-page story (subscription required) on Martha Stewart's prison experiences.  The long piece includes a lot of interesting sentencing items and some Booker discussion.  Here are a few highlights:

On a recent morning in a dining room at the federal prison camp here, Martha Stewart listened, banana in hand, as two inmates told her of the assets they had to forfeit before serving lengthy sentences. A frustrated Ms. Stewart pounded her banana on the table, an inmate recalls.  Susan C. Spry, serving a 12-year, seven-month sentence for possession of methamphetamine, says she blurted: "Martha, you're bruising your banana!" She says Ms. Stewart responded: "I just hate these sentencing guidelines." ...

During her stay, Ms. Stewart, perhaps the nation's most famous federal convict, has become interested in prison and sentencing reform.  After a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January that rendered mandatory sentencing guidelines unconstitutional, she wrote that she worried her fellow inmates would sink into a "severe depression" if courts fail to grant them shorter sentences....

In light of the Supreme Court's ruling, a number of Alderson inmates have filed petitions to get their cases reconsidered.  "People were running up and down the hall cheering" on Jan. 12, the day the Supreme Court struck down the constitutionality of mandatory sentencing guidelines, says [a fellow inmate], whose own petition has been stayed.  Ms. Stewart, she says, "has passed along whatever information she found out from her lawyers and has been galvanizing in terms of encouragement and exhortation to action."...

But as Ms. Stewart predicted, many whose spirits were raised have become depressed again as they have learned that courts are unlikely to re-open plea bargains, in which defendants are required to waive appeals.  "Most women are disappointed now," says [another inmate], who was also a lawyer, judge and prosecutor before being sent to prison.  "And most are realistic."

March 3, 2005 at 02:50 AM | Permalink


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It does not sound like these poor inmates were well-served by their defense attorneys -- with whom many have no doubt been in contact since Blakely.

It should have come as no surprise to the defense bar (and thus their clients) that the "cure" could be worse than the "disease" -- certainly for the defendants whose cases were final.

It makes you think back to Justice Scalia's snippy comment (and there are so many) about NACDL being duped. They may not have been duped but the ultimate result for defendants need not be better post-Blakely. It is the devil you know versus the devil you don't.

Posted by: Realist | Mar 3, 2005 9:20:01 AM

I think you are doing a great job of keeping
those of us informed that have no other way
to stay current. My son is one of the unfortunate first time offenders receiving
an agregious 15 year sentence. Hopefully as
more awareness is created we will see our
loved ones leaving prison as Martha did this
morning. Thank you so much for all your good work!

Posted by: Pat Marshall | Mar 4, 2005 8:06:36 PM

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