December 18, 2006
Eighth Circuit reverses two more below-guideline sentences
Today brings more proof, in contrast to my speculation in this post, that the Supreme Court's recent cert grant in Claiborne is not going to slow down the Eighth Circuit in reversing downward variances granted by its district courts. In both US v. Kane, No. 06-1103 (8th Cir. Dec. 18, 2006) (available here), and US v. Morales-Uribe, No. 06-1855 (8th Cir. Dec. 18, 2006) (available here), the Eighth Circuit is again reversing a downward variance from the guidelines thought appropriate by the district judge who actually had the defendant before the court.
Kane and Morales-Uribe involve quite different facts, both as to the crimes involved and the bases that a downward variance was granted. Also, a completely different set of active judges are on the panel in each case. But both cases demonstrate the circuits' continued willingness to second-guess the sentencing judgments of district courts and to rely very heavily on the guidelines when engaging in such second-guessing.
December 18, 2006 at 03:19 PM | Permalink
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The court reversed because the sentence was too light given the facts of the case:A federal appeals court threw out the 10-year prison sentence of a woman who rented her 9-year-old daughter to a pedophile more than 200 times, saying [Read More]
Tracked on Dec 19, 2006 10:07:47 PM
I am normally quite upset when I read reversals of downward variances and compare those opinions to others that affirm upward variances. And I am normally quite deferential to a trial judge's opinion on the appropriate sentence under 3553(a), regardless of it being a downward or upward variance. However, there are limits to both of these personal philosophies, and Kane exemplifies this.
Kane is a case where I think the appellate court got it right, and I don't think it is a case where the Circuit "second-guessed" the District court's sentencing judgment or "relied very heavily on the guidelines when engaging in such second-guessing." Kane's conduct was truly reprehensible, more so than even Champion's conduct because a child's trust in her mother was betrayed-all for $20.
In sticking to my principles and a) giving deferential treatment to the trial judge's sentencing judgement and b) not giving undue weight to the guidelines, I still believe the downward variance in this circumstance required reversal. While I obviously don't know all the details of the case, there is nothing in the appellate opinion that shows me the 3553(a) factors supported a downward variance. Ultimately, the question is whether a 10 year sentence (which approximately amounts to a sentence of 18 days for each time Kane did this to her daughter) is sufficient but not greater than necessary? Based upon the 3553(a) factors, and barely considering the Guidelines, I have to answer that question in the negative.
Posted by: DEJ | Dec 18, 2006 7:11:02 PM