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June 14, 2007

First Circuit affirms long sentence while suggesting future commutation

The First Circuit today in US v. Godin, No. 06-1749 (1st Cir. June 14, 2007) (available here), affirms as reasonable a within-guideline sentence of nearly 22 years' imprisonment for a mentally ill woman who committed "a robbery that netted a few hundred dollars."  The panel in Godin thoughtful recognizes the arguments for and against this sentence and ultimately shows deference to the district court's sentencing judgment.  And the Godin opinion concludes with this notable paragraph:

A lower sentence could have been defended. But there was no mistake of law, the district judge made a thoughtful assessment, the result is not indefensible, and there the matter must stand. If Godin could rehabilitate herself in prison and dispel the very real threat of future harm, a responsible penal system would eventually consider a shortening of her sentence.  The President, through the commutation process, may choose to do so.

Perhaps in 2025, when Jennifer Godin still has a few years left on her sentence, perhaps President Clinton — Chelsea, that is — will take this commutation suggestion to heart.

June 14, 2007 at 08:28 PM | Permalink


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» CA1: they really were not related crimes from Appellate Law
US v. Godin, No. 06-1749 affirms sentence of an armed robber. The First lays out her point: On this appeal, Godin says the question whether she qualified as a career offender should have been determined by a jury. The Supreme [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 14, 2007 8:49:00 PM


If she really does rehabilitate, is the hope of commutation real?

Posted by: William Jockusch | Jun 14, 2007 9:27:33 PM

It depends on whether Chelsea gets elected or not.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jun 14, 2007 9:35:49 PM

Only Tommy Flannagan (I can hear Jon Lovitz hanging with the appellate panel "yeah thats the ticket") would buy into CA1's dream world that there is a responsible penal system or a President which would eventually consider shortening this woman's sentence.

The standard of review results in affirmation of a sentence where the characteristics of the defendant (mental illness) and the command of 18 U.S.C. 3582 that the district judge is to recognize that imprisonment is not the approriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation are subordinated to the cookie-cutter incapacitation considerations operationalized by the suggested guideline sentence, and the mandatory minimum 924(c) sentence.

The District Judge could have given the woman 1 day for the robbery and 84 months on the 924(c). And then placed a mental health treatment component on the term of supervised release. If she lives long enough to serve the term actually imposed the mental health treatment she finally gets on supervised release is going have to also overcome the effects of close to 20 years imprisonment. I suppose CA1 would say that the mental health treatment on supervised release almost two decades after the fact will be responsible and efficacious to insure that she won't do it again.

Posted by: KAY | Jun 14, 2007 11:42:52 PM

Her prior criminal history rating as a career criminal is instructive. She had two prior felonies. Both were unarmed burglaries in the same apartment building, close in time in the same summer, when no one else was present. A plea bargain, of 90 days to each count, was accepted for each burglary on the same day, but the cases weren't formally consolidated.

This is all it took for her to count as a career violent criminal, and face dramatically enhanced sentences. In short, while she may be the barest of technicalities and harshest reading of the applicable statute count as a career violent criminal, in fact, she was no such thing.

Her serious lifelong history of mental health issues should be mitigating, as that goes to her degree of culpability, even more so on her prior felony offenses than on her current one. Those incidents were characteristics of mentally ill outbursts.

Of course, her crime of armed robbery is serious. She pointed a gun at someone, demanded money, took the money, and made a threat. The armed threat makes it serious far beyond the money received by her in the crime. But, it is also typical of an armed robbery -- the stereotypical case, so to speak, rather than an aggravated or a mitigated case. The isn't an 8th Amendment case. This is a case where what the court itself calls a "Rube Goldberg" like sentencing system under the guidelines is applied in a ham handed way without meaningfully considering whether this is what the guidelines drafters were really thinking about when they singled out career offender cases.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 15, 2007 4:40:05 PM

If her two burglaries six days apart at the same apartment building in the same manner sentenced on the same day were viewed part of a common plan or scheme, she would have received a sentence 37-48 months (i.e. 3-4 years) instead of almost 22 years.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jun 15, 2007 4:48:46 PM

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