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July 29, 2011

Tenth Circuit reverses long sentence based on failure to address disparity concerns

The Tenth Circuit released today a fascinating opinion addressing post-Booker sentencing decision-making and review in US v. Lente, No. 10-2194 (10th Cir. July 29, 2011) (available here). The first and the penultimate paragraphs provides the basics of the 34-page panel opinion:

Camille Suzanne Lente challenges her sentence as procedurally and substantively unreasonable.  Ms. Lente killed three young men and seriously injured a young woman in a car accident that occurred when she was driving while intoxicated. She entered a guilty plea to three counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury.  She was originally sentenced to 216 months (18 years) in prison, a significant upward variance from her proposed Guidelines range of 46 to 57 months’ imprisonment.   A divided panel of this court vacated her sentence and remanded for resentencing in a per curiam, unpublished decision with no majority opinion.   See United States v. Lente, 323 F. App’x 698, 699 (10th Cir. 2009).  On resentencing, a different district court judge sentenced Ms. Lente to 192 months (16 years) in prison.  She now appeals from her resentencing.  We conclude the district court’s failure to address Ms. Lente’s argument about the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities constitutes reversible procedural error.  Exercising our jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a)(3), we reverse and remand....

The need to avoid unwarranted disparities is a critical sentencing factor.  Equal justice is a core goal of our constitutional system.  We require courts to justify sentences to meet that goal.  When justification is not forthcoming, the credibility of the sentence suffers. Whether the sentence is five years, ten years, or sixteen years, we insist on the procedural safeguard of explanation to assure us that justice has been done.  We make no judgment about the proper length of Ms. Lente’s sentence.  We remand for proper procedural foundation.

July 29, 2011 at 08:10 PM | Permalink

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Comments

personally i think they have done had TWO tries to get the damn thing right. Now it's time to open the doors and let her out!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 30, 2011 12:56:14 PM

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