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November 14, 2005

Seventh Circuit vacates guideline sentence for inadequate explanation

In an important ruling that could significantly impact a lot of post-Booker sentencings, the Seventh Circuit today, per Judge Posner (with Judge Easterbrook signed on), reversed a within-guideline sentence for "inadequate explanation."  In US v. Cunningham, No. 05-1774 (7th Cir. Nov. 14, 2005) (accessible here), the Court reversed a 57-month sentence that was at the bottom of the applicable guideline range because the record below "left in serious doubt whether the [sentencing] judge connected the facts relating to the statutory factors to the sentence he imposed."  Here is the concluding paragraph of a must-read opinion:

The judgment must be vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.  We express no view on the proper sentence.  Given the gravity with which Congress regards the sale of crack, and (depending on the reason) Cunningham's failure to cooperate in the prosecution of Means, the judge's "bottom line" — a guidelines sentence far less severe than that of the leading conspirator — may be reasonable.  And he may decide to reimpose it after considering the factors urged by Cunningham's lawyer.  All that remains for the future.  The inadequate explanation for the sentence precludes our affirmance.

November 14, 2005 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

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