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June 9, 2007

New DPIC report on doubts about the death penalty

The Death Penalty Information Center, as detailed here, has just released a new report entitled, "A Crisis of Confidence: American's Doubts About the Death Penalty."   The full report is available here, and this press release provides an overview:

Because of mistakes and a lack of efficacy, the death penalty is losing the confidence of the American public, according to a new poll by RT Strategies.... Almost 40% of the U.S. population believe they would be excluded as jurors in capital cases and a strong majority (58%) believe it is time for a moratorium on the death penalty while the process undergoes a careful review.  The poll was commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

Almost all Americans (87%) believe that an innocent person has already been executed in recent years, and over half (55%) say that fact has affected their views on the death penalty.  An overwhelming 69% of the public believes that reforms will not eliminate all wrongful convictions and executions.

June 9, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

All the sentencing news that's fit to print

The New York Times has a lot of sentencing coverage today.  Here are headlines and links:

June 9, 2007 in Recommended reading | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 8, 2007

More strong calls for justice for Genarlow Wilson

Because I was in Atlanta this morning for an Eleventh Circuit argument (reported by the media here and here), I saw the print copy of this extended editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution entitled, "Teen's search for justice: Genarlow Wilson's 10-year sentence for consensual sex ought to be thrown out by judge."  TChris at TalkLeft here discusses the editorial and the fact that former President Jimmy Carter has spoken out in favor of justice for Genarlow.  A ruling on Wilson's state habeas action is expected on Monday.

Recent related posts:

June 8, 2007 in Examples of "over-punishment" | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The latest news from Paris

I'm not sure whether I am still bemused or now getting fatigued by Parisian justice, but here is the latest development from the AP:

Paris Hilton was taken from a courtroom screaming and crying Friday seconds after a judge ordered her returned to jail to serve out her entire 45-day sentence for a parole violation in a reckless driving case. "It's not right!" shouted the weeping Hilton. "Mom!" she called out to her mother in the audience.

Hilton, who was brought to court in handcuffs in a sheriff's car, came into the courtroom disheveled and weeping. Her hair was askew and she wore a gray fuzzy sweatshirt over slacks.  She wore no makeup and she cried throughout the hearing.  Her body also shook constantly as she dabbed at her eyes....

California Attorney General Jerry Brown criticized the Sheriff's Department for letting Hilton out of jail, saying he believed she should serve out her sentence.  "It does hold up the system to ridicule when the powerful and the famous get special treatment," Brown told The Associated Press in an interview before testifying at a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.  "I'm sure there's a lot of people who've seen their family members go to jail and have various ailments, physical and psychological, that didn't get them released," he said. "I'd say it's time for a course correction."

June 8, 2007 in Celebrity sentencings | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Another former federal prosecutor suggests Libby's within-guideline sentence is unreasonable

As discussed here, former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani has already suggested that Lewis "Scooter" Libby's within-guideline sentence is substantively unreasonable.  Now I see from this Washington Post op-ed that former federal prosecutor William Otis, who advocates clemency for Libby, views Libby's within-guideline sentence as "excessive" and "unusually harsh" and "unnecessary."  Notably, Otis does not mention in his op-ed that Libby received a sentence at the bottom of the applicable guideline range.

Thankfully, Eric Muller, in this must-read post, effectively highlights the remarkable hypocrisy of these sentencing criticisms coming from Otis, who was not long ago a spokesman for the Justice Department decrying judicial decisions to sentence below the guidelines.  Here is one of the points Otis made in testimony to Congress complaining about sentences below the guidelines: "Even more than others, persons convicted of criminal behavior need — for their own good and ours — to turn away from the culture of grievance-building and excuse-making and join the culture of personal responsibility."

In addition, given his experience with guideline sentencing realities, Otis should know better than to call Libby's sentence "unusually harsh."  As I have highlighted in posts here and here and here, decorated veteran Victor Rita received a within-guideline 33-month sentence for far less serious instances of perjury and obstruction.  And yet, I do not believe that Otis has spoken out in support of Rita's appeal of his sentence to the Supreme Court.

I hope that the Justices considering Rita's appeal are taking note of how these "tough on crime" former federal prosecutors now are so ready to spotlight that the guidelines can sometimes produce unreasonably harsh sentence ranges.

Some recent related posts:

June 8, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack

The Paris jail saga continues ... and raises equal justice concerns

As this AP article details, only a matter of hours "after Paris Hilton was sent home under house arrest Thursday, the judge who put her in jail for violating her reckless-driving probation ordered her into court to determine whether she should be put back behind bars."

I'm not sure I have enough energy or interest to come up with any thoughtful commentary on this latest development in the Paris debacle.  Fortunately, Laura Appleman at PrawfsBlawg and Jeralyn at TalkLeft have smart things to say about all the Hilton brouhaha.

UPDATE:  Hilton's early release seems to be the top story on all the morning talk shows, and the focus is justifiably turning to whether any other jail inmate could have be reassigned to home confinement based on the "medical conditions" cited as the reason for Hilton's release.  (My favorite sound-bite: "Paris is going from the big house to the really big house."). 

Here is the start of a telling commentary from John Gibson at Fox News, entitled "Al Sharpton is Right about Paris Hilton":

Today when Paris Hilton got sprung from jail 20 days early — from a sentence that was just half of what was originally imposed — the story turned out to be that Paris' shrink went to the jailers and said she was about to have a nervous breakdown.  So they let her go home early with an ankle bracelet.  Sharpton immediately said there may have been racism involved here.

Look, when he's right he's right.  No matter what you think of Rev. Al, it is hard to imagine that anywhere in America a black woman is getting out of jail today because her shrink says she's about to have a nervous breakdown.  He says it wouldn't happen, and I agree.

It shouldn't happen either.  It shouldn't happen with "little miss just anybody," whether she's African-American or white or Asian or Hispanic or anything. And it shouldn't have happened with Paris Hilton.

June 8, 2007 in Celebrity sentencings | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 7, 2007

Putting sentencing theories into practice

This extended article in the Daily Report, the local legal paper, explains at length why I am now in Atlanta gearing up for an oral argument tomorrow.  In addition, I just noticed today this AP article discussing the honorable veteran who also ended up as one of my clients.

Though I am obviously keeping busy, I am sure learning a lot about the realities of modern federal sentencing practices.  I suppose I am doing a job job taking to heart Neal Katyal's terrifically interesting Harvard Law Review comment encouraging the legal academy to go practice.

June 7, 2007 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

More Libby lessons as pardons and clemency are considered

There are so many insights and lessons one can draw from the sentencing of Lewis Libby.  Prior posts here and here focused on some guideline lessons, and this fine new Los Angeles Times piece focuses on lessons about the sentencing judge.  And, of course, the focal point for future insights and lessons will center on the Presideny's pardon and clemency power.

This New York Times piece provides a good overview of some pardon issues in the Libby case, and Margaret Love says so much in this short LA Times op-ed entitled "Begging Bush's pardon."  Here is the start of Love's very strong commentary:

As speculation grows about whether President Bush will pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, or at least commute his prison sentence, it's important to remember the hundreds of ordinary people who have been patiently standing in line, some for many years, waiting for presidential forgiveness.  In a sense, it is these largely anonymous applicants for executive clemency (of which pardon and commutation are subsets) who hold the key to the president's ability to help the well-connected Mr. Libby.

This is not so much a matter of fairness as it is of political common sense.  Many of those with pending applications for clemency were convicted long ago of garden-variety crimes and have fully served their time; many others are still serving lengthy mandatory prison terms from which there is no hope of parole (parole having been eliminated from federal sentencing).

One such applicant is my client, Willie Mays Aikens, whose addiction to crack cocaine ruined a brilliant major league baseball career and who is now in the 13th year of a 20-year prison term for selling drugs to an undercover policewoman — an extraordinarily harsh sentence for a relatively minor, nonviolent drug offense.  There are countless others in similar positions.  If the president is unwilling to look favorably on deserving applicants for clemency like Aikens, how can he justify helping Libby? ...

Bush has been more sparing in his exercise of the constitutional pardon power than any president in the last 100 years, including his father. He has pardoned only 113 people in more than six years in office and denied more than 1,000 pardon applications.  He has granted only three of more than 5,000 requests for sentence reduction from federal prisoners.  Many hundreds of applications remain to be acted on....

For a president who has been willing to stretch his other constitutional powers to the limit and beyond, Bush has proved strangely hesitant to exercise the one power that is unquestionably his alone.... The federal pardon power has a proud history, yet in recent years it has been trivialized and allowed to atrophy.  The Libby case presents Bush with an opportunity to change that.

If he begins now to exercise his pardon power with more intention and greater liberality, with more sympathy for human error and less aversion to controversy, there is at least a chance that the public will regard with equanimity any relief he ultimately chooses to grant to Scooter Libby.

Some related posts:

June 7, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Paris Hilton released early from jail based on "medical considerations"

As detailed in this CNN article, "Paris Hilton was let out of jail Thursday morning, days after she began serving what was to have been a 45-day sentence for violating probation, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said."  Here are more specifics:

Hilton must wear a monitoring bracelet and remain at her home for another 40 days, said sheriff's department spokesman Steve Whitmore.  Medical considerations "played a part" in the decision to offer Hilton home confinement for the remainder of her sentence, Whitmore said.

He said privacy rules prohibited him from giving details about the medical issues, but celebrity Web site TMZ.com earlier quoted sources saying Hilton was refusing to eat much of the jail food served her.

Whitmore said that after "extensive consultation with medical personnel" it was decided to offer Hilton "reassignment" to home confinement, which she and her attorneys accepted.

The questions this news prompts are nearly endless:

June 7, 2007 in Celebrity sentencings | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Advocacy against sex offender residency restrictions

Among a lot of great new stuff at the blogs Sex Crimes and Sex Offender Issues are posts here and here and here setting out advocacy and arguments against sex offender residency restrictions.  Of particular note, and worthy of a full read, is this amicus brief filed in the Ohio Supreme Court in a case challenging the application of Ohio's residency restriction.  Here is part of the brief's argument summary:

Research has shown that sex offenders with stable housing and social support are much less likely to commit new sex offenses compared to those offenders who lack stability. Residence restrictions deprive sex offenders of stable housing and social support, and thus significantly increase the risk of recidivism.  In addition, sex offenders who become homeless, or fail to provide accurate addresses as a result of these restrictions, will be more difficult to supervise and monitor in the community, thereby increasing the risk to children.  Recent studies have concluded that sex offender residence statutes create a false sense of security that may leave children more vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Equally troubling is the lack of evidence that these laws actually protect children.  To the contrary, those states that have studied the issue carefully have found no relationship between sex offense recidivism and the proximity of sex offenders' residences to schools or other places where children congregate.

In reality, sex offender residence laws in Ohio and elsewhere around the country are driven by fear, not facts.  Despite widespread belief that sex offender recidivism rates are high, recent studies have shown that such recidivism is the exception, rather than the rule, particularly if the offender has received treatment. In cases where recidivism did occur, residence restrictions had no impact.  Instead, efforts to enforce sex offender residence laws drain valuable law enforcement resources.

Some related posts on sex offender residency restrictions:

June 7, 2007 in Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (53) | TrackBack

Dissecting the key guideline calculation in the Libby sentencing

Though talk is already turning to pardons in the wake of Lewis Libby's sentencing, I am very pleased to see that Edward Lazarus in this very effective FindLaw column is looking more closely at the key guideline determination that led Judge Walton to give Libby a sentencing of 30 months.  Here are snippets from the column:

Amid the[] politically-driven reactions, it is worth pausing to consider the Sentencing Guidelines calculation that led to Libby's sentence.  When the issue is viewed through this admittedly narrow and incomplete prism, I would argue that Libby's 30-month sentence is justifiable, but that a more lenient outcome would also have been appropriate....

Under the Guidelines, the offense severity for someone convicted of perjury or obstruction is the greater of either the severity rating for generic perjury/obstruction, or the severity rating of the offense being lied about or covered up. In essence, the Guidelines treat someone guilty of perjury or obstruction as an accessory after the fact to the offense underlying the lies and obstruction.  Some thoughtful commentators have started complaining about the fairness of this approach. But as a general matter, it makes very good sense. Not all lies are created equal. The reason for the lie ought to matter....

Moving from the general to the specific, Libby's case presents a close question for whether cross-referencing the underlying offense being investigated, for purposes of Guidelines calculations, makes sense. Here, Libby himself was not charged with violating the IIPA or the Espionage Act and, perhaps even more important, neither was anyone else.  A reasonable argument can be made that cross-referencing doesn't make much sense when it may well be the case that no one actually committed the crimes being investigated.

Is it really fair, after all, to up Libby's punishment for obstructing an investigation in which there was no underlying crime charged (or perhaps even committed)?

Some related posts:

June 7, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Should there be a registry for domestic violence offenders?

Thanks to this post at Crime & Consequences, I see from this local news article that Pennsylvania legislators are considering a bill to create a registry and database of persons convicted of a domestic violence offense.  Here are more details from the article:

Two years after a man shot his wife and later killed himself in Quakertown, officials in the Upper Bucks borough will likely urge commonwealth legislators to create a state-wide Internet registry of domestic violence offenders to help prevent such tragedies from happening again. Borough council expects to approve a resolution tonight calling on the Legislature to pass a bill known as "Robin's Law."

Introduced in the state House on May 31, the bill would create a Megan's Law-style database. Instead of sexual predators though, the picture, address and crime of domestic violence convicts will be posted online for anyone to see, according to a preliminary draft of the bill.

Though I have not seen much firm empirical evidence, I have heard lots of anecdotal reports from various sources that sex offender registries can be a helpful and effective law enforcement tool.  If this is true, my first instinct is to support broader use of offender registries.

June 7, 2007 in Criminal Sentences Alternatives | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

California sentencing commission closer to reality

As detailed in articles from the San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee, both houses of the California legislature passed (slightly different) bills to create a sentencing commission in California.  the Mercury News article nicely details differences in the bill and the partisan political rhetoric surrounding their consideration and passage.

Some related posts:

June 7, 2007 in State Sentencing Guidelines | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A legal eulogy for the Claiborne case

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this new article, entitled "Death leads to dismissal of key Supreme Court case," that discusses the legal aftermation of the death of Mario Claiborne.  Here are excerpts:

Investigators are still sorting out why Mario Claiborne was following a stolen pickup last week and just how the pursuit led to gunfire and Claiborne's death.  But the killing has created other legal twists, as it forced the dismissal of Claiborne's closely watched case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was expected to rule within the next few weeks. J ustices were to clarify how much discretion federal judges have when applying sentencing guidelines....

Claiborne's case already had traveled an improbable road by reaching the Supreme Court, where oral arguments were held in February.  Thousands of people seek review by the high court and few succeed. And of those who get the court's attention, even fewer are killed before their case is heard.  "Once people make it to the Supreme Court, we don't tend to lose them," said Tom Goldstein, who heads the Supreme Court practice of Washington law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

The case had been watched across the country and potentially could have affected thousands of criminal defendants and a growing backlog of cases awaiting resolution of the issue.  About 9,800 of the more than 70,000 defendants sentenced in federal court in fiscal year 2006 got similar departures from guideline sentences, according to Justice Department statistics.  "You've got a lot of different parties that see this as having a far-reaching effect," [Assistant U.S. Attorney Cris] Stevens said.

Some related posts:

June 7, 2007 in Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 6, 2007

Another remarkable homage to jury trial rights from Judge Young

In June 2004, about a week before the Supreme Court decided Blakely, District Judge William Young of the District of Massachusetts issued this remarkable 174-page opinion in US v. Green concluding that the logic of Apprendi and Ring rendered the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional.  (Of course, the Supreme Court vindicated Judge Young's analysis through its subsequent opinions in Blakely and Booker.)  Last summer, Judge Young today issued this remarkable 141-page opinion in US v. Kandirakis to explain his view of post-Booker sentencing realities.

Today, Judge Young has completed his third extraordinary opinion spotlighting the importance of jury trial rights and the Apprendi line of cases system through an opinion in US v. Griffin, No. 05-10372 (D. Mass. June 6, 2007) (available for download below).  Though weighing in at a svelte 45 pages, Griffin is jam packed with amazing insights and rhetorical flourishes (as well as a cite to Orin Kerr's favorite recent casenote). 

Of particular importance, Griffin give punch to the Supreme Court's ruling in Cunningham (even though most other federal courts have opted to ignore Cunnigham's potential import).  Let me quote one of the many major passages from Griffin:

In short, the importance of Cunningham is two-fold.  First, much as a codicil is to a revoked will, Cunningham's timing -- after the internally irreconcilable Booker decisions -- republishes the Apprendi/Blakely/Constitutional Booker theme over Remedial Booker's minimization of the Sixth Amendment.  Thus, the epicenter of Sixth Amendment jurisprudence for sentencing purposes is located on the facts found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.  See Cunningham, 127 S.Ct. at 863-64. Second, the analysis in Cunningham reiterates and clarifies that the "statutory maximum" for Sixth Amendment analysis must be determined, in first instance, by jury-found facts. See id. at 868. For these two purposes, it makes no difference that Cunningham focuses on a state sentencing law instead of the federal advisory sentencing guidelines.

Download judge_young_griffin_opinion.rtf

June 6, 2007 in Booker in district courts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The SCOTUS death divide

Mark Sherman has today filed this effective AP story, entitled "4 Justices Often Side With the Condemned."  Here is a snippet:

No one on the Supreme Court publicly opposes the death penalty, but four justices often side with death row inmates who are fighting to avoid execution.  Though they are a minority on the nine-justice court, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens win as often as they lose....

The court has been implacably split on this issue, as on others.  Roberts typically has been aligned with Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, opting to defer to the state courts that imposed and upheld death sentences....

"In the late '80s and early '90s, you were a rare defendant who won a death penalty case at the Supreme Court," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center. "Now there's a fair chance that if you can get Justice Kennedy, you'll win."

June 6, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

LA Times opposes death penalty for child rape for intriguing reason

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times had this interesting editorial, entitled "Death to child rapists?  The Louisiana Supreme Court thinks child rapists should be executed.  Might the U.S. Supreme Court agree?".  Here are snippets:

The United States is virtually alone among advanced democracies in permitting capital punishment. But widespread ambivalence about imposing the ultimate penalty has produced a minor industry of litigation that has had the effect of postponing executions for years and even decades.  This state of affairs, which frustrates supporters and opponents of capital punishment, exists even though the death penalty has been imposed for more than a generation only in murder cases.  Now imagine how clogged the courts would become if states were allowed to execute individuals for other crimes....

The rape of a child is an unspeakable crime.  In its decision, the Louisiana court wrote that "short of first-degree murder, we can think of no other non-homicide crime more deserving" of the death penalty.  But imaginative state legislators might easily discover other offenses worthy of the ultimate punishment: terrorism, major drug dealing (a capital offense under federal law) or violent hate crimes.  Capital punishment has proved dysfunctional and divisive as a sanction for murder.  The U.S. Supreme Court shouldn't compound the error — and increase its own workload — by allowing states to execute criminals who do not take a human life.

I find quite interesting and compelling the notion that allowing the death penalty for non-homicide crimes is a recipe for lots and lots and lots and lots of litigation (especially in the Ninth Circuit).  But is this sound pragmatic concern a valid constitutional consideration for the Supreme Court interpreting the Eighth Amendment? 

In other words, I think the LA Times has a winning argument here, but its pragmatic advocacy against any new non-homicide capital offenses ought to be directed to Congress and state legislators, not to the US Supreme Court.

June 6, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms, Sex Offender Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Fascinating Second Circuit case reversing above-guideline sentence

The Second Circuit today in US v. Cavera, No. 05-4591 (2d Cir. June 6, 2007) (available here), issues a lengthy ruling — with a notable concurrence from one of my former bosses — on post-Booker sentencing standards.  Here is how it begins:

This appeal prompts us to write further on the subject of federal criminal sentencing in the aftermath of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). All agree that Booker removed the mandatory teeth of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (Guidelines) by rendering them advisory, and that Justice Breyer's remedy opinion put some bite back into the Guidelines by requiring courts when sentencing defendants to "consider" them.  See id. at 259-60.  We, like our sister circuits, are still putting flesh on the skeleton issue of what it means to consider the Guidelines, and -- as we address specifically in this case -- when and under what circumstances a district court may impose a non-Guidelines sentence.

Among many interesting aspects of Cavera is that it was argued way back in May 2006.  I have an inkling that this ruling was being held pending a Supreme Court decision in Claiborne.  But now that it is unclear, after Claiborne's dismissal, whether and how the Supreme Court will addresses reasonableness review for non-guidelines sentence, the panel in Cavera perhaps sensibly figured it needed finally to resolve this appeal ASAP.

UPDATE:  This post provides a nice long write-up about Cavera at the Second Circuit Sentencing Blog.

MORE: The New York Law Journal has coverage of Cavera that's right now available at this link.

June 6, 2007 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Genarlow Wilson state habeas appeal update

A scheduled hearing on Genarlow Wilson's state habeas action has the Atlanta Journal-Constitution again discussing this remarkable case with this article, entitled "Sex landed him in prison; will petition bail him out?", and this op-ed by columnist Cynthia Tucker, entitled "Genarlow Wilson should be free."  For a lot more background, check out these prior posts about the case:

UPDATE:  This AP story provides a brief account of the argument in the Wilson case today, but it has no information about whether and when a ruling on the merits might be forthcoming.

MORE:  This updated AP piece indicates that the state judge "says he'll make a decision by Monday in the case of a Georgia man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was two years older than she was."

June 6, 2007 in Examples of "over-punishment" | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rudy Giuliani suggests Libby's within-guideline sentence is unreasonable

As regular readers know, despite thousands of post-Booker appeals, the federal circuit courts are yet to find a single within-guideline sentence to be substantively unreasonable.  However, thanks to a question during the Republican debate asking the candidates about pardoning Scooter Libby, it now appears that former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani has concluded that Lewis Libby's within-guideline sentence is substantively unreasonable.  Here is exactly what Giuliani said during the debate:

I think the sentence was way out of line.  I mean, the sentence was grossly excessive in a situation in which at the beginning, the prosecutor knew who the leak was and he knew a crime wasn't committed. I recommended over a thousand pardons to President Reagan when I was associate attorney general. I would see if it fit the criteria for pardon. I'd wait for the appeal. I think what the judge did today argues more in favor of a pardon because this is excessive punishment.

Though Giuliani does not use the term "unreasonable," that seems to be the obvious legal implication from Giuliani's description of Libby's within-guideline sentence as "way out of line" and "grossly excessive."  I wonder if Giuliani would use the same description for Victor Rita's 33-month sentence for less serious instances of perjury and obstruction.  Of course, the Fourth Circuit found Rita's sentence to be reasonable; under current DC Circuit law, Libby's 30-month sentence is already presumptively reasonable.

For additional great guideline lessons from the Libby sentencing, be sure to check out Ellen Podgor's thoughtful commentary here at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog.

June 6, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Insights for SCOTUS-watching season

The next few weeks are prime SCOTUS time, which means the media and commentators have a lot to discuss as we await the final rulings of the term.  Thanks to Howard Bashman, here are a number of new interesting pieces for SCOTUS-watchers:

June 6, 2007 in Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 5, 2007

Will SCOTUS take up supervised release revocation issue?

I am very pleased to discover that SCOTUSblog has listed the Faulks case I involved with in its list of "petitions to watch" in the Supreme Court's upcoming conference this Thursday.   I have previously discussed the Faulks case here and here, and I will have my fingers crossed hoping for good news when the Justices announce new cert grants next Monday.  Here our pitch for cert and the main questions presented from our initial petition (which is available here; BIO here; reply here):

In 1998, following a jury conviction, Judge Rebecca Beach Smith sentenced Celestine Faulks to the Guidelines-maximum term of 30 months in prison and five years' supervised release. Seven years later, as Faulks's term of supervision was nearing completion, a federal probation officer alleged that Faulks had committed a state crime in violation of a condition of her release.  Faulks denied the allegation.  At a revocation hearing under 18 U.S.C. § 3583, Judge Smith decided disputed questions of identity, actus reus, mens rea, and witness credibility using a civil standard of proof. Judge Smith found Faulks guilty of the alleged offense and sentenced her to a three-year term of imprisonment. This case presents two questions:

1. Whether a federal judge may, consistent with Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), impose upon a former federal offender a new three-year term of imprisonment based solely on the judge's disputed factual findings, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the former offender committed a state offense during her term of supervised release.

2. Whether proceedings in which federal judicial officials initiate, investigate, and adjudicate disputed allegations that a former federal offender has violated a condition of supervised release by committing a state offense violate the constitutional guarantees of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments as set forth in Apprendi, Blakely, and Mine Workers v. Bagwell, 512 U.S. 821 (1994).

June 5, 2007 in Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Some blogosphere reaction to to the Libby sentencing

TalkLeft continues to have the most thorough and thoughtful discussion of post-sentencing Libby issues, though I have also seen posts and comments of interest at:

AL&P's post notes some of the most notable “Libby Letters” to Judge Walton and sensibly speculates: "Did they do any good?  Probably not."

June 5, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reasonableness review revisions (and revolutions?)

As highlighted by two posts at SCOTUSblog, the state and fate of reasonableness review in the Supreme Court may be evolving even though the Rita decision may still be weeks away.  First, Tom Goldstein here, rethinking his prior authorship prediction, now says Justice Breyer is likely "writing at least one of the opinions in the sentencing cases."  Of course, as of this writing, there is only one remaining sentencing case, Rita, after the Claiborne case went away due to the defendant's death (basics here).

But, as detailed in this post by Lyle Denniston, the Solicitor General, through this new filing, has now "urged the Supreme Court ... to grant review in a new Sentencing Guidelines case replacing one that has been ordered vacated, and suggested that the new case could be decided before the Court finishes the current Term, perhaps later this month."  The new case, as previously previewed here, is Beal v. US (docket 06-8498). 

As I explained in this post, I am not too keen on SCOTUS rushing through a new set of facts in Beal to address the issues raised Claiborne.  That said, I think the SG is absolutely right when he says, in this latest SCOTUS filing, that the "federal criminal justice system has a great need for this Court's guidance concerning the nature and scope of review of out-of-guidelines sentences under Booker." 

Because so many issues of sentencing law and policy intersect in the Supreme Court's sentencing cases (as I detailed in this post), I still believe the Supreme Court would be wise now to invest its time and energy in getting Rita right and then subsequently gear up to hear and decide out-of-guidelines issues next Term.  However, the SG obviously has a uniquely informed perspective on these federal criminal justice issues, and this Beal might be on the fact track to the Supreme Court reporter.

Anyone want to hazard a new prediction on what exactly the Justices will now do with reasonableness review (and when they will do it)?

Some recent related posts:

June 5, 2007 in Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Lots of sentencing action in the Circuits

Though I am still sorting through all the Libby sentencing news (basics here and here), I have also noticed consequential sentencing rulings from a lot of federal circuit courts today.  In addition to the DC Circuit ruling previously blogged today, the Third, Sixth, Seventh and Ninth Circuits all also have (lengthy) published decisions on a variety of distinct and important sentencing issues.

Based on very quick reads, I think think the Tenth Circuit work in Pruitt yesterday (discussed here) is the best long circuit read for sentencing fans this week.  But, perhaps readers can point me to holdings or passages in today's copious circuit work that should not be overlooked.

UPDATE:  DoD has this report on the Third Circuit's decision in US v. Voelker, No. 05-2858 (3d Cir. June 5, 2007) (available here), entitled "Third Circuit Strikes Down Draconian Sentencing Conditions."

June 5, 2007 in Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Now we get to debate bail pending appeal (and a pardon) for Libby

This new AP article about the Lewis Libby sentencing indicates that Judge Walton has decided to take extra time and briefing on bail pending appeal for Libby:

Walton did not set a date for Libby to report to prison.  Though he saw no reason to let Libby remain free pending appeal, Walton said he would accept written arguments on the issue and rule later.

Jeralyn here at TalkLeft has this helpful report about what is to happen now:

The Probation Department has to recalculate the guidelines grouping the obstruction, perjury and false statement charge. The judge has stayed imposition of the sentence. No decision on bond pending appeal today or voluntary surrender today, but Libby goes home.  Briefs will be filed on the appeal bond issue, it will be heard a week from Thursday at 1:30.

So, Libby will surely remain free at least until Thursday, June 14.  Even if Judge Walton denies bail pending appeal, Libby likely won't be expected to surrender until the end of June (during which time Libby's team might appeal to the DC Circuit the denial of bail pending appeal). 

This timeline is significant not only because it provides a lot of time for the inevitable pardon talk to get going, but also because the Supreme Court will likely decide the Rita case in the next few weeks.  If Victor Rita's within-guideline sentence is reversed as unreasonable, I think Libby's team could have some strong new arguments on a variety of sentencing issues (which, in turn, could further support his arguments for bail pending appeal).

June 5, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Libby gets within-guideline sentence of 30 months

As detailed in this early report from the AP, "Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for lying to investigators about what he told reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame.... He also was fined $250,000."

I believe Judge Walton accepted the government's proposed sentencing enhancement and then sentenced at the bottom of the applicable range, but I am not sure.  More details to follow, with early comments from readers highly encouraged.  (For now, let me just say that I hope that Libby's sentence is the basis for a question at tonight's Republican candidates debate.)

UPDATE:  TalkLeft has lots of good coverage, including this post with links to all the letters sent to Judge Walton.  I'd be grateful for reader help to identify which letters seem particularly notable.

Also, let me not forget to note that this sentence is still three months shorter than the sentence given to Victor Rita for very similar — though, in my view, less serious — crimes (as discussed here and here). 

It is fun to speculate whether this sentence for Libby could impact some of the Justices' views (or dicta) as the wrap up a decision in Rita.  I also think this reality highlights the mistake made by the defense team to not try to put off sentencing until after the Justices rule in Rita.

June 5, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A call for truly public executions?

This new AP article, headlined "Botched injections inspire fight to ID executioners," discusses the efforts of the ACLU of Ohio to seek information about the persons involved in Ohio's execution procedures.  The article cover this ground effectively and has a quote from the DPIC's executive director that almost make a call for truly public executions:

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes the death penalty, said the public can't properly scrutinize the effectiveness of capital punishment without adequate information on those carrying it out. "Public executions should be as public as possible," he said. "They supposedly have nothing to hide, and as with anything government does, it benefits from more scrutiny. For medical personnel, yes, there may be a cost. But that's sort of like the cost that the state, or all of us, bear."

But death penalty advocates such as Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, California, accuse capital punishment opponents of wanting to expose members of execution teams to intimidate them.

As I have suggested in a number of prior posts, I believe we ought to at least be making video recordings of executions.  These recordings need not be made available to the public — but perhaps should be subject to public disclosure if there are no objections from the families of the victims and the executed defendant — in order to ensure we have an evidentiary record of executions that goes beyond just eye-witness accounts.

Some related posts:

June 5, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

DC Circuit finds district court wrongfully participated in plea negotiations

The DC Circuit today in US v. Baker, No. 06-3115 (DC Cir. June 5, 2007) (available here), upset a conviction because the district judge was too involved in plea discussions.  Here is how the opinion begins and concludes:

Kenneth C. Baker pled guilty to a five-count indictment in federal district court, for which he received a 51-month sentence.  On appeal, Baker argues his guilty plea and sentence must be set aside because the court impermissibly and prejudicially participated in plea negotiations with him.  We find Baker's arguments persuasive and therefore vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings....

We are convinced by our review of the entire record that the district court here had only good intentions in attempting to facilitate a plea agreement initially believed to be advantageous to all involved, did not intend to coerce an involuntary plea, and attempted to remedy its error during the plea colloquy with Baker. Nonetheless, Rule 11's strict prohibition exists because judicial participation in plea discussions is inherently coercive.

June 5, 2007 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Issues to watch in Lewis Libby's sentencing

As detailed in this AP article, this morning is the scheduled federal sentencing of Lewis "Scooter" Libby in DC District Court.  The article ponders the interesting question of whether Libby himself will speak as part of the sentencing proceeding.  Here are some other issues I'll be will be watching:

1.  Will Judge Walton accept the PSR's guideline recommendation (setting the advisory sentencing range at 15-21 months' imprisonment) or will he apply the enhancements urged by the government (which bump the range up to 30-37 months)?  This new Time article unpacks this aspect of the case.

2.  Will Judge Walton grant a "traditional departure" on any of the grounds urged by the defense?  TalkLeft covers some of these issues here.

3.  Will Judge Walton follow the guidelines (with or without a traditional departure) or will he impose a non-guideline sentence?

4.  If judge Judge Walton gives some term of confinement to Libby, will he grant bail pending appeal?

Of course, these questions all serve a prelude to the pardon debate that will surely heat up in the days ahead, especially if Libby gets a prison sentence and bail pending appeal is not granted.

Some recent related Libby sentencing posts:

June 5, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tenth Circuit discusses reasonableness review for lengthy within-guideline sentence at length

Late Monday the Tenth Circuit issued a lengthy opinion in US v. Pruitt, No. (06-3512 (10th Cir. June 4, 2007) (available here), that provides a thoughtful examination of post-Booker realities in the course of affirming a within-guideline sentence of 292 months for a woman who pled guilty to meth distribution.   At least until we get a ruling in Rita, Pruitt is a must-read for everyone thinking about the review of within-guideline sentences after Booker.  (Orin Kerr at Volokh agrees in this post with good comments.)

The majority opinion in Pruitt, authored by Judge Holloway, provides 26 pages of cogent explanations for why the defendant's many arguments "failed to rebut the presumption of reasonableness accorded to her within-Guidelines sentence."   Judge McConnell adds a terrifically insightful 21-page concurrence, which begins with this candid observation:

[A]fter watching this Court — and the other Courts of Appeals, whether they have formally adopted such a presumption or not — affirm hundreds upon hundreds of within-Guidelines sentences, it seems to me that the rebuttability of the presumption is more theoretical than real.  In view of the resources devoted to appeals of within-Guidelines sentences, it might be better if we were more candid in acknowledging this.

Read together, the opinions in Pruitt come close to admitting that the presumption of reasonableness for within-guideline sentences is, in practice, a per se rule of reasonableness wheever the district court sufficiently explains why it sentenced within the guidelines.

June 5, 2007 in Booker in the Circuits | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Death qualification and the embrace of jury sentencing in capital cases

Because so few offenders — even so few murderers — are subject to capital punishment these days, the Supreme Court's split ruling in Uttecht v. Brown (opinion here; media coverage here) likely has more symbolic import than practical impact.  (For those interested in the practicalities of capital jury selection, Karl Keys here at Capital Defense Weekly and Lyle Denniston here at SCOTUSblog cover this ground very well.)

Though various messages might be found in Uttecht v. Brown, I must highlight that the intricate (and widely-debated) issue of "death qualification" of jurors in capital cases flows from the broad consensus that jurors — and not judges — should be the primary sentencing decision-makers when death is an available sentencing option.  In my sentencing classes, I encourage students to contemplate exactly why society generally favors jury sentencing in the capital context and yet seems to resist jury sentencing in other settings.

Regular readers know that I have become a believer in Blakely rights, and the entire Blakely line of cases has led me to think a lot more about the virtues and vices of true jury sentencing in non-capital cases.  The Uttecht v. Brown ruling provides another opportunity to ponder just why true jury sentencing is the accepted norm in capital cases, but is the exception in most other types of criminal cases.

June 5, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 4, 2007

Shouldn't SCOTUS just do Rita right and go from there?

As noted here, the Supreme Court officially took the Claiborne case off its docket through this per curiam opinion that vacates the Eighth Circuit's opinion in the wake of Mario Claiborne's death (basics here).  But this expected move now raises a host of questions about what the Justices will and should do with the important issues raised and extensively briefed in Claiborne

As detailed here, Claiborne's lawyer has suggested an alternative case, Beal v. U.S. (docket 06-8498), for the Court to take up in order to be able to address directly reasonableness review in a case involving a below-guideline sentence.  I believe the SG's office has not yet officially weighed in on this suggestion, though perhaps something will be filed soon in the wake of the Court's official ruling in Claiborne.

For a variety of reasons, I hope SCOTUS does not take up and rush through another case to replace the Claiborne case.  Claiborne involved a distinct set of facts built on a unique lower court record.  Though perhaps the Justices had a view of the Claiborne case that was not focused on its unique facts, all sound sentencing determinations are necessarily fact- and context-specific.  (Indeed, as I argued in various amicus filings in Claiborne and Rita (available here), 3553(a) can be understood to demand fact- and context-specific reasoned judgments by district courts at initial sentencings and by circuit courts applying reasonableness review.)

Though lower courts certainly need additional SCOTUS guidance on how to deal with below-guideline arguments and sentences, the Justices still can and should address the most pressing post-Booker issues through a complete ruling in Rita.  Though the Roberts Court has tended toward narrow rulings, I believe both judicial modesty and doctrinal clarity can be best served if the Court provides a thorough analysis and ruling in Rita and then just waits to consider and address other post-Booker issues through the Court's standard review procedures.

June 4, 2007 in Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Condemned inmate making the death penalty a laughing matter

Though this AP story about a Texas defendant scheduled to be executed later this month might seem like a joking matter, thoughtful readers can find some deep issues within.  Here are highlights:

A condemned inmate wants to leave them laughing.  Patrick Knight is collecting jokes and will pick the funniest one for his last statement before he is set to die June 26 for shooting his neighbors, Walter and Mary Werner, to death almost 16 years ago outside Amarillo.

Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson thinks the whole idea is insensitive.  "This tells you a little bit about the guy's character, anyway," said Richardson, who was chief deputy at the time of the Werners' killings and plans to witness Knight's execution....

Knight acknowledges there's nothing funny about his execution. "I'm not trying to disrespect the Werners or anything like that," he told The Associated Press from death row. "I'm not trying to say I don't care what's going on.  I'm about to die. I'm not going to sit here and whine and cry and moan and everything like that when I'm facing the punishment I've been given.

"I'm not asking for money. I'm not asking for pen pals or anything like that.  All I'm asking for is jokes," Knight said.  He's had about 250 wisecracks mailed to him on death row or e-mailed to a friend who has a Web site for him.  "Lawyer jokes are real popular," he said....

Knight said he got the idea for a joke as his last statement after a friend, Vincent Gutierrez, was executed earlier this year and laughed from the death chamber gurney: "Where's a stunt double when you need one?"

"I know I'm not innocent," said Knight, who believes his appeals have been exhausted. "They think they're killing me.  They think they're punishing me. They've already punished me.  I've already had 16 years of punishment. They're releasing me. They're letting me go. That's helping me out.  That's the way I look at it."

June 4, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Interesting prison conditions per curiam (that should interest Civ Pro teachers)

In addition to the other sentencing action from SCOTUS today, the Justices also vacated a ruling of the Tenth Circuit in a prison conditions case in Erickson v. Pardus, No. 06-7317 (S. Ct. June 4, 2007) (available here).  Here is how the opinion begins:

Imprisoned by the State of Colorado and alleging violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, William Erickson, the petitioner in this Court, filed suit against prison officials in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.  He alleged that a liver condition resulting from hepatitis C required a treatment program that officials had commenced but then wrongfully terminated, with life-threatening consequences.  Deeming these allegations, and others to be noted, to be "conclusory," the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the District Court's dismissal of petitioner's complaint. 198 Fed. Appx. 694, 698 (2006).  The holding departs in so stark manner from the pleading standard mandated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that we grant review.  We vacate the court's judgment and remand the case for further consideration.

Notably, Justice Thomas has a one-paragraph substantive dissent and the decision indicates separately that "Justice Scalia would deny the petition for a writ of certiorari."  I would guess that 7-2 per curiam opinions are relatively rare, though the substantive issue perhaps made the Court's procedural approach to this case sensible (even though its cert docket needs filling).

Though Erickson will surely get lost in the discussion of other SCOTUS activities today, this decision could be a profound practical significance.  I sense that prisoner suits often can get summarily (and too quickly) dismissed;  Erickson sends a strong message to lower courts to be more careful and conscientious when dealing with these matters.

June 4, 2007 in Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Eighth Circuit rules on Missouri LI litigation

This morning the Eighth Circuit finally decided Taylor v. Crawford, No. 06- 3651 (8th Cir. June 4, 2007) (available here), which addrssses lethal injection issues in Missouri.  Here is the official summary of the ruling from the unanimous panel of the Eighth Circuit:

District court's judgment holding Missouri's lethal injection protocol for imposition of death sentence unconstitutional is reversed. Revised written protocol does not rise to the level of creating a constitutionally significant risk of pain.  The 5-gram dose of thiopental properly delivered by qualified medical personnel, a three-minute wait before injecting final two chemicals, and physical examination to determine level of consciousness is sufficient.  Continuous monitoring by anesthesiologist or by additional equipment is not justified.

After this decision, one must wonder whether the next stop for Missouri death row defendants will be: (1) en banc review in the Eighth Circuit?  (2) the Supreme Court's docket? or (3) the death chamber?  You make the call.

June 4, 2007 in Death Penalty Reforms | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

SCOTUS dismisses Claiborne, again rules 5-4 in a capital case

After a few quite sentencing weeks, SCOTUS did a lot this morning that sentencing fans will find interesting.  SCOTUSblog is, of course, the place to get all the early reports, and here are the sentencing highlights thanks to Lyle Denniston:

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out the case of Claiboirne v. U.S. (06-5618), because the individual involved, Mario Claiborne of St. Louis, Mo., had died last week.  The Court ordered an Eighth Circuit decision in the case vacated as moot.  The case involved the question of whether it is presumed to be unreasonable for a federal judge to impose a below-Guidelines range sentence, if there were no extraordinary circumstances in the case.  The Court took no immediate action on a plea to grant review in a substitute case from the Eighth Circuit raising the same issue....

The Supreme Court, dividing 5-4, ruled on Monday that federal courts must defer to trial courts in deciding whether to remove a juror from a death penalty trial because of the potential juror's views about capital punishment.  The Court said that the trial judge "is in a superior position" to make that decision.  The case was Uttecht v. Brown (06-413), with the Court reversing the Ninth Circuit Court.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced the decision of the majority, and Justice John Paul Stevens responded from the bench for the dissenters.

Commentary will follow on both of these developments later in the day.

June 4, 2007 in Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Paris Hilton starts serving time in low-budget jail

As detailed in this AP story, "Paris Hilton checked into a Los Angeles County jail to begin a three-week stay for violating her probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case."  Here are more notable details about her incarceration:

Hilton will be housed in the "special needs" unit of the 13-year-old jail, separate from most of its 2,200 inmates.  The unit contains 12 two-person cells reserved for police officers, public officials, celebrities and other high-profile inmates....

"I did have a choice to go to a pay jail," Hilton said Sunday, without giving details.  "But I declined because I feel like the media portrays me in a way that I'm not and that's why I wanted to go to county, to show that I can do it and I'm going to be treated like everyone else.  I'm going to do the time, I'm going to do it the right way."

Some related recent posts:

June 4, 2007 in Celebrity sentencings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An effective primer before the Libby sentencing

In this piece at TomDispatch.com, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, who has been writing about the Valerie Plame case since 2005, provides a lesson in "Sentencing for Dummies" in anticipation for tomorrow's sentencing of Lewis "Scooter" Libby.  Here are some snippets from an interesting piece:

Given that, as the government points out, Libby used his position in the White House to commit the crime for which he was convicted; that he has not used his law license for many years and would likely never have to again; that the families of all defendants' suffer and that, unlike most defendants, Libby has a massive legal defense trust fund; that he committed his crime not once, but four times over a period of many months; and that doesn't think he did anything wrong, I suspect the judge will not be giving Libby probation....

Because of this almost universal disconnect over the case, I would not be surprised to find that, even if Judge Walton imposes a sentence of 37 months -- which I believe would be entirely warranted -- many people, particularly those who have most ardently supported the effort, will find the event anticlimactic and vaguely dispiriting.

I make this prediction in part because such is the nature of sentencing proceedings. Having participated in hundreds of sentencings, I've found nearly every one to be dispiriting at some level.  Strangely -- especially given that I was there as a prosecutor -- I often felt sorry for the defendant and, even more often, sympathized with the defendant's family and friends.  At the same time, I was always heartbroken by the effects of the crime on the victims and knew that the pain they had been caused was not going to end simply because the defendant was heading off to prison. Sentencings have an aura of finality -- and simplicity -- that is invariably more illusory than real.

Some recent related Libby sentencing posts:

June 4, 2007 in Libby sentencing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 3, 2007

Will SCOTUS address Claiborne's fate on Monday?

On Monday morning, the Supreme Court will release orders and probably a few new opinions.  Before last week, I thought there was a chance that we might decisions in the Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case as early as this Monday (although wiser folks than me had predicted the middle of June for these critical rulings on Booker's meaning and impact on federal sentencing).

However, the death of Mario Claiborne (details here) would seem to ensure that SCOTUS will need more time to sort out these matters.  Thus, I think the chief issues now are whether the Supreme Court's orders on Monday will include some formal action on the Claiborne case and will provide some indication on how the Justices plan to handle these matters going forward.  Any predictions, dear readers?

Related posts:

June 3, 2007 in Claiborne and Rita reasonableness case | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sunday around the blogosphere

To my chagrin, even on Sunday, the MSM does not have much coverage of all the non-capital sentencing action heating up these days.  (Of course, there are plenty of newspaper articles about the legal injection developments in Ohio and California, even though these developments will really only impact a few people.)

Fortunately, these great locales around the blogosphere have lots of new posts and commentary for sentencing fans looking for interesting Sunday reads:

June 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Advocating a sentencing commission for California

The Sacramento Bee has these two new pieces that both make an effective pitch for California to create a sentencing commission to help deal with all its sentencing and prison woes:

In related news, this newspaper article reports that a new poll shows that Californians support new prison construction to cope with overcrowding issues:

In a reversal, a poll shows Californians now overwhelmingly view prison crowding as a crisis big enough to justify the state's new multibillion-dollar construction program — a reflection of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's sway over public opinion.  Before the governor's push for prison spending, the public historically had "not placed a high priority" on prison woes, said Mark Baldassare, director of the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California.

An institute survey released Thursday also reaffirms that the public believes, more than ever, state prisons exist mostly to protect Californians and punish criminals — not rehabilitate.  Liberal Democratic lawmakers and prison-reform advocacy groups said the attitude won't help as they try to push the state toward stronger rehabilitation measures and major changes in parole and sentencing laws.

The survey discussed in this article is available at this link.

June 3, 2007 in Scope of Imprisonment, Who Sentences? | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack