April 3, 2006
Verdict reached in Moussaoui case
As detailed in this AP story, jurors in the federal death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui "reached a verdict Monday on whether the confessed al-Qaida terror conspirator is eligible for execution." That verdict will be announced at 4pm today.
UPDATE: The jury (unsurprisingly?) has decided that Moussaoui is death penalty eligible to culminate what was essentially the guilt phase of his capital trial. Consequently, the trial will now move into a second punishment phase to determine whether he deserves the death penalty. My understanding is that victims of the September 11 attacks and their families will testify in this second phase.
Right now, CNN has lots of Moussaoui coverage at its homepage.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Lyle Denniston now has great coverage of the verdict here at SCOTUSblog. His post ends with these insights:
It was widely believed, by those following the death proceeding closely, that the hardest burden for the government would be the death eligibility verdict. And, with the jury now unanimously in favor of eligibility, it seems only a matter of time until the proceeding results in an actual death sentence.
It is a virtual certainty that his defense lawyers will seek to appeal any death verdict, ultimately to the Supreme Court. He probably would not cooperate in any such appeal, but his lawyers may proceed without his concurrence, as they have throughout the death penalty proceeding.
Two thoughtful (and unlinkable) reviews of the post-Booker world
The former article, titled "Not so free after all," is effectively summarized here by David Oscar Markus at the Southern District of Florida Blog. It is primarily focused on the post-Booker world in South Florida. The latter article, which is titled "Sentences: Run-On or Reduced?," covers the national scene more fully and highlights again why Booker fix buzz is not likely to subside anytime soon.
UPDATE: The Daily Business Review article is now available via law.com at this link. It is a long and comprehensive article that covers a lot of ground effectively and includes a number of interesting quotes.
The joys of deciphering and assessing criminal history
Sentencing fans know that much federal court energy is devoted to deciphering and assessing defendants' criminal history. More evidence of this reality comes right away this week from a Sixth Circuit decision in US v. Beasley, No. 04-6468 (6th Cir. Apr. 3, 2006) (available here), which is yet another ruling sorting through eligibility for armed career criminal status under the guidelines.
In addition, as noted here by Lyle Denniston over at SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court granted cert. today on a pair of immigration cases that will take that Court back into the criminal history arena:
The Court ... [granted cert in] a pair of cases that seek to clarify what kind of conviction for a drug crime can lead to deportation for an immigrant. The question is whether, if the conviction came under state law and is a felony, but would only be a misdemeanor under federal narcotics law, does that qualify as an "aggravated felony" that can lead to deportation. The Court consolidated two cases on that issue: Lopez v. Gonzales (05-547) and Toledo-Flores v. U.S. (05-7664). The cases will be heard next Term, in a one-hour argument. The Solicitor General urged the Court to hear the issue.
UPDATE: Right on cue, the Ninth Circuit in US v. Piccolo, No. 04-10577 (9th Cir. Apr. 3, 2006) (available here) today opines on whether the defendant's "conviction for walkaway escape from a halfway house is a 'crime of violence' under [USSG] § 4B1.1 [to qualify as] a 'career offender' under that provision." The thoughtful opinion in Piccolo highlights a number of circuit splits on these sorts of criminal history issues.
April 2, 2006
Notable death penalty headlines
As is often the case, this weekend brought some interesting death penalty stories in the newspapers:
- From California here, "Death penalty moratorium supporters try again to block executions"
- From Illinois here, "Wrongfully convicted man calls death penalty 'barbaric'"
- From Washington here, "Foes of death penalty sense shifting momentum despite recent court loss"
UPDATE: Here are some more notable capital headlines from Monday morning:
- From Albama here, "Jeffco death sentences highest since '76"
- From North Carolina here, "Capital punishment opponents gain partial victory"
- From Washington here, "The proper role of state's death penalty"
House Judiciary oversight hearing on DOJ
With Booker fix buzz still in the air (details here and here), this Thursday the full House Judiciary Committee has planned this oversight hearing entitled simply "The United States Department of Justice." According to the official webpage, it appears that US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the only scheduled witness.
I suspect that the war on terror, rather than the war on Booker, will be the chief topic for discussion during this oversight hearing. But perhaps a range of topics will be on the agenda, which could make this hearing an event to keep an eye on this coming week.
Debating life imprisonment for white-collar offenses
This article from Kansas, which includes an effective account of the federal sentencing process, has interesting reflections from former prosecutors concerning whether "convicted white-collar criminals David Wittig and Douglas Lake deserve life in prison as suggested by the U.S. Probation Office." Wittig and Lake are two former Westar Energy executives convicted of looting Westar of millions of dollars. According to the article, "[i]f one or both men were sentenced to life, it would be the first time a white-collar offender would receive such a term in connection with prosecutions by the federal Corporate Fraud Task Force, a Wittig court filing said."
Some related prior posts:
- Tough sentences for white-collar offenders
- White-collar Booker breaks
- A pattern of white-collar leniency?
- Are the federal guidelines too tough on white-collar offenders?