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January 25, 2010

Federal judge rejects plea with long sentencing recommendation because it is not long enough

This New York Times article from late last week, which is headlined "Plea Rejected in Case of Hepatitis Infections," spotlights the role that victims can sometimes play in getting sentencing judges to reject plea deals even when they include significant terms of imprisonment. Here are the details:

Suggesting that 20 years in prison was not enough punishment for the crime, a federal judge on Friday rejected a plea agreement for a former hospital technician and drug user who admitted that she exposed hundreds of patients in her care to hepatitis C.

The judge, Robert E. Blackburn, said the agreement with the former hospital worker, Kristen D. Parker, inordinately restrained his discretion and did not take into account the views of victims, many of whom submitted anguished written statements. It is unusual, legal experts said, for a judge to reject a plea agreement.

Ms. Parker, 27, admitted to the police on videotape that while working at Rose Medical Center in Denver in 2008 and 2009, she stole pain-medication syringes from operating room trays, replacing them at times with needles she had already used to inject herself with heroin.

Seventeen Rose patients have so far been found to have a strain of hepatitis C linked through genetic sequencing to the strain in Ms. Parker’s blood, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Hepatitis C affects liver function and can have lifelong consequences.

Ms. Parker’s lawyer, Gregory C. Graf, said he had not consulted yet with his client but expected she would probably persist with her guilty plea, giving the judge discretion as to her sentence when the case reconvenes next month. Ms. Parker could also change her plea to not guilty and insist on a jury trial, or try to reach another plea agreement with prosecutors.

Judge Blackburn warned Ms. Parker in the brief hearing in Federal District Court, before a courtroom packed with former Rose patients and their families, that if she chose to continue with her guilty plea, the sentence could be stiffer. “I may dispose the case less favorably,” Judge Blackburn said....

A lawyer representing 13 of the Rose hepatitis patients, Hollynd Hoskins, also specifically argued to Judge Blackburn that the United States attorney’s office was not adequately consulting with her clients as required by the [federal Crime] Victims Rights Act.

The United States attorney for Colorado, David M. Gaouette, in a statement on Friday, said, “The victim issues are vitally important in this case and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure their voices are heard.”

January 25, 2010 at 08:47 AM | Permalink

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"A lawyer representing 13 of the Rose hepatitis patients, Hollynd Hoskins, also specifically argued to Judge Blackburn that the United States attorney’s office was not adequately consulting with her clients as required by the [federal Crime] Victims Rights Act."

Of course, Bill will come trouncing in here once again to defend the indefensible....

Oh wait, the victims want a *longer* sentence? Well, this should be curious. Will his thirst for blood overcome his love for his fellow incompetents. Curious minds want to know.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 25, 2010 11:43:15 AM

Is withdrawal of a guilty plea a very effective remedy in a case as high profile as this one where the tender of the guilty plea in the first place was so widely reported?

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jan 25, 2010 2:15:45 PM

Isn't the post-Booker world just grand? I mean with every judge his or her own compass for what's equitable - what could possibly go wrong?

Oh.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Jan 25, 2010 3:56:02 PM

Ferris --

Nailed it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 26, 2010 12:38:36 PM

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LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS HAS COMPLETE FAITH THAT SUPREME COURT JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS IS THE RIGHT MAN IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR JUSTICE TO PREVAIL FOR ALL AMERICANS !

Posted by: LAWYERS FOR POOR AMERICANS | Feb 24, 2010 6:25:48 PM

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