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September 20, 2006

"Chaos in Sentencing"

In this interesting column entitled "Chaos in Sentencing" for the Washington Post, Andrew Cohen writes about "two vital court rulings were issued in August highlighting the extent to which our federal sentencing rules and policies are broken."  Here are a few highlights:

Last month, the irrepressible U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young in Boston dropped upon an unsuspecting nation a 125-page ruling -- a mini-treatise, really -- on what is currently wrong with federal sentencing law, why this is so, and what judges and elected officials can and should do about it.  Then, a few days later, a divided 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [typo alert: should be 6th Circuit] overturned a capital sentence for a fellow name Jason Getsy after concluding that his punishment from the Ohio courts was "arbitrary" and unfair and thus a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual" punishment.

Taken together, the two rulings represent the sorry state of the art in an area of the law that the United States Supreme Court tried to revamp last year in United States v. Booker when it held unconstitutional the mandatory nature of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  Both orders focus primarily upon plea bargains and their corrosive impact upon fairness in federal sentences.  Both orders take to task the existing sentencing regime, such that it is. Both remind us of the constitutional need for a nexus between crime and punishment, verdict and judgment.  Both make compelling cases for how and why Congress and the Supreme Court have utterly failed to fix sentencing problems that have been apparent and growing worse for years.

I am not sold on the link between Booker and the Sixth Circuit's habeas work in Getsy.  But I do very much like Cohen's promotion of Judge Young's terrific Kandirakis opinion (basics here), as well as the overall spirit of Cohen's kvetching about the modern state of sentencing.  Of course, as detailed in some posts below, there are plenty of suggested solutions.

Some related posts:

September 20, 2006 at 07:09 AM | Permalink

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Tracked on Sep 20, 2006 11:53:32 AM

Comments

An interesting 11th Circuit opinion came out last month re:acquitted conduct (U.S. v. Faust). The concurrence by Judge Barkett squarely addresses the issue.

Posted by: | Sep 21, 2006 1:11:23 PM

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