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October 25, 2006

On Vonner, the en banc Sixth Circuit reasonableness case

As discussed here and here, the Sixth Circuit has granted en banc review in Vonner to explore the circuit's approach to post-Booker reasonableness review.  Today, the Knoxville News Sentinel has this excellent article providing the back story of the case and post-Booker sentencing.  Here is a snippet:

Killer.  Cocaine dealer.  Legal revolutionary?   Knoxville bad boy Alvin Vonner may not have set out to shape the federal sentencing landscape in four states, including Tennessee, and maybe even the nation.  But he is poised to do just that.  The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has granted the granddaddy of all appeals hearings — the rare "en banc" rehearing in which the entire panel will hear and decide the case....

Vonner's case, though on paper only about the reasonableness of his 117-month prison term for dealing drugs in Knoxville, could set the course for sentencing decisions for every federal criminal in the circuit and, perhaps, the nation. "They could rock our whole world," Vonner's defense attorney, Stephen Ross Johnson, noted. "They could just tweak our world."...

The landmark Supreme Court ruling, known as the Booker decision, gave judges newfound freedom to determine punishment but left wide open exactly how that freedom was to be exercised. Judges still had to "consider" the guidelines, but how much weight should they give them?  Is it "reasonable" for a judge to stick to the guidelines?  Does a sentence within the guidelines range carry more weight? And what exactly is the test that appellate courts like the 6th Circuit should apply in deciding if a sentence was "reasonable?" ...

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley sought the en banc hearing in Vonner's case.  His boss, U.S. Attorney Russ Dedrick, said: "We think it's a precedent-setting case. We'd like to get the law clarified."  Johnson agreed. "I think en banc consideration is a good thing," he said. "It will help provide clarification for the district courts."

Some recent Booker reasonableness posts:

October 25, 2006 at 07:45 AM | Permalink

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