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March 24, 2011

Seventh Circuit gives some teeth to parsimony principle in reversing life sentence for crack

The Seventh Circuit shows yet again that it is willing and able to give some real meaning to reasonableness review after Booker, this time by reversing a within-guideline crack sentence of life imprisonment in US v. Johnson, No. 10-1737 (7th Cir. March 24, 2011) (available here).  Here is how the Johnson opinion begins:

A jury in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois convicted Henry Johnson of several crimes related to the possession and sale of crack cocaine.  The district court sentenced Mr. Johnson to life in prison.  In his initial appeal, we affirmed the convictions, but we reversed the sentence and remanded to allow the district court to take account of the Supreme Court’s intervening decision in Kimbrough v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 128 S. Ct. 558 (2007).  See United States v. Johnson, 584 F.3d 731, 740 (7th Cir. 2009).  On remand, the district court again imposed a sentence of life imprisonment, and Mr. Johnson now appeals.  We conclude that our prior remand did not permit relitigation of the drug quantity.  We further conclude that the district court procedurally erred because it did not determine, after considering the sentencing factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), that resentencing Mr. Johnson under his guideline range of natural life in prison was “sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with § 3553(a)(2).  Id. § 3553(a).  Therefore, we must vacate and remand for this determination.

March 24, 2011 at 12:20 PM | Permalink

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