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December 28, 2005

Seventh Circuit upholds long sentence for "moderate quantity" of crack

Proving yet again that reasonableness review seems unlikely to have much bite (at least for defendants seeking to challenge long sentences), the Seventh Circuit today in US vs. Lister, No. 04-4304 (7th Cir. Dec. 28, 2005) (available here) upheld as reasonable a sentence of nearly 40 years in a drug case involving, in the Seventh Circuit's words, only a "moderate quantity" of crack.

Lister covers a number of issues, including acceptance of responsibility and aspects of reasonableness review.  The Lister court ultimately concluded that the district judge sufficiently justified a long (within-guideline) sentence in the case.  But it did add this interesting comment along the way:

Because this sentence was based on an adequate consideration of the § 3553(a) factors, we cannot say that it is unreasonable.  We take this opportunity, however, to respectfully remind the district court that 1.84 kilograms of cocaine base is a moderate quantity compared to those higher amounts contemplated by 21 U.S.C. § 841.  Yet, in comparison, the 405 month sentence nearly reaches the statutory maximum.  Such a term leaves little room for the proportional sentencing that motivated Congress to pass the sentencing guidelines, a motivation recognized and supported by the Supreme Court's second holding of Booker.

December 28, 2005 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

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