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January 20, 2006

Ninth Circuit discusses victim's right to allocute at sentencing

Addressing an important and essentially new issue of sentencing procedure, the Ninth Circuit today in Kenna v. US District Court for the Central District of California, No. 05-73467 (available here), addresses "whether the Crime Victims' Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3771, gives victims the right to allocute at sentencing."  Per Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit panel decided to grant a writ of mandamus to ensure victims could speak at a defendant's sentencing hearing.  Here is the opinion's conclusion:

We grant the petition for writ of mandamus and hold that the district court erred in refusing to allow Kenna and other victims to speak at Zvi Leichner's sentencing hearing.  The district court shall deem timely a motion pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3771(d)(5) filed by Kenna or any other of Zvi's victims within 14 days of the date of our opinion.  If the district court grants the motion, it shall conduct a new sentencing hearing, according Kenna and the other victims the right to speak as described above.

Writing separately to explain why he is "dubitante" about the panel's main opinion, Judge Daniel Friedman (sitting by designation) explains that "[a]lthough I agree that the writ should issue, I am concerned about the seemingly broad sweep of the opinion."

Related posts about the interesting and dynamic issue of victims' rights at sentencing:

UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle has this brief account of Kenna.

January 20, 2006 at 04:49 PM | Permalink

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