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February 10, 2007

Friday night (sentencing) lights

Two circuit rulings from late Friday provide remarkable illumination of many remarkable modern federal sentencing realities:

  • From the Fifth Circuit, US v. Perrin, No. 06-30115 (5th Cir. Feb. 9, 2007) (available here) is another example of a circuit court reversing a below-guideline sentence as unreasonable and also showcases another variation on my offense/offender ideas.  The defendant in Perrin is a college kid who possessed a lot of "unusually reprehensible" child pornography.  With a focus on the offender, the sentencing judge imposed a sentence well below the applicable guideline; with a focus on the offense, the Fifth Circuit panel reversed and requires resentencing.
  • From the Tenth Circuit, US v. Medley, No. 06-30115 (5th Cir. Feb. 9, 2007) (available here; discussed by DotD here), affirms a sentence that got longer after the defendant won her initial sentencing appeal.  What makes the Medley decision really sing is a fantastic concurrence by Judge McConnell which has a lovely mixture of analysis and advice concerning how resentencings may often play out because the "current system of sentencing" may have "a systematic bias in favor of higher sentences on remand from successful appeals, even successful appeals by the defendant."

Judge McConnell's work in Medley is so great that I'll have another post with additional analysis coming soon.

February 10, 2007 at 01:43 PM | Permalink


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I would say that that 5th Circuit ruling was, at best, a low light.

While naturally I tend to agree with you on the offender/offense distinction, I think neither approach should be the goal of sentencing in an ideal setting. Make me philosopher-king and sentencing would be based on what is the optimal public safety outcome achievable using best practices within constitutional and budgetary constraints? As a non-practitioner observing from a distance, it appears that in cases like the below-guideline sentence for the college kid possessing child porn in the 5th Circuit, offender-oriented sentencing more often achieves that goal. But I often think the way the courts frame crime and punishment debates seems to nearly preclude best outcomes rather than pursue them.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 10, 2007 2:15:43 PM

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