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March 19, 2006

Examining the post-Booker landscape in Iowa

The Des Moines Register has this interesting article, entitled "Data show more variety in sentencing," which discusses the look of the post-Booker world of federal sentencing in Iowa. Here are some highlights:

In the first 13 months since federal judges were handed more freedom in sentencing, punishment disparities have developed among courthouses nationwide, new data show. Federal prosecutors and judges in Iowa downplay the meaning of the statistics, but defense attorneys say the numbers reinforce what they have always believed: Varying judicial temperaments, combined with harsher prosecution in Iowa's northern half, can create widely different sentences for similar crimes....

Since [Booker], judges in Iowa's Northern District have continued to issue guideline-approved sentences in nearly 69 percent of cases. But in the Southern District, which includes Des Moines, the percentage fell to 49 percent.... Between Jan. 12, 2005, and Feb. 1, 2006, northern prosecutors sought lower sentences in only 14 percent of their cases, compared with 21 percent in the Southern District....

[AUSA Rich] Murphy and Southern District U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker questioned the value of the statistics, which are based on sometimes-incomplete case information reported to the sentencing commission. Prosecutors estimated that the numbers reflect only 60 percent to 85 percent of the work that took place. "There are so many moving variables here," Whitaker said. "I don't think you can draw any analysis of what this says."

March 19, 2006 at 08:41 AM | Permalink

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