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October 11, 2006

A sad example of sentencing sloppiness

Perhaps I am always charged up about sentencing realities because I sometimes find cases in which simple sloppiness can almost cost a person years of their life.  A prime example comes from a summary order in the (unpublished) Second Circuit ruling in US v. Day, No. 05-4283 (2d Cir. Oct. 10, 2006) (available here). 

In Day, the Second Circuit reverses a 15-year sentence because "the District Court erred in (1) misreading the relevant statute to require that the mandatory minimum sentence it imposed for each count be served consecutively ..., and (2) not making findings in support of its decision that Day did not qualify for safety valve relief."  At the initial sentencing, the defendant in this case might have received a 10-year (or even shorter) sentence had the district judge not been led astray by a pre-sentence report that wrongly indicated that two sentences had to be served consecutively.

October 11, 2006 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Look at what Scalia says in his Booker dissent about these 'vaunted' presentence reports:

"—that Congress was so attached to having judges determine “real conduct” on the basis of bureaucratically prepared, hearsay-riddled presentence reports that it would rather lose the binding nature of the Guidelines than adhere to the old-fashioned process of having juries find the facts that expose a defendant to increased prison time."

Posted by: Brian | Oct 11, 2006 1:37:23 PM

The probation officer clearly got the calculations wrong, but all the blame cannot be placed on the "vaunted," "bureaucratically prepared" PSR. There were three law school graduates involved in this debacle - a judge, an AUSA, and a defense attorney. Maybe you can excuse a judge for not knowing the intricacies of the calculations (but this really was rather simple), or the AUSA for not questioning a high sentence, but where was the defense counsel? This wasn't a "hearsay" evidence issue; this was a basic guideline mechanics issue.

Posted by: Anonymous P.O. | Oct 11, 2006 4:25:48 PM

Why was this reversal unpublished? You'd think that the Court of Appeals would want the district courts in the circuit to know that they must avoid mistakes like this by assuring the widest dissemination -- by actual publishing in the Fed. Reporter.

Mark

Posted by: Mark | Oct 13, 2006 11:25:03 AM

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