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October 31, 2011

Split Eighth Circuit affirms reasonableness of 48-year sentence for juve who pleaded to second-degree murder

An interesting (and unusual) reasonableness appeal produced an interesting split of opinion today in US v. Boneshirt, No. 10-3108 (8th Cir. Oct. 31, 2011) (available here).  Here are snippets from the relatively lengthy majority opinion authored by Judge Smith:

Brian Boneshirt pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to one count of second degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1153 and 1111. The district court sentenced him to 576 months' imprisonment.  On appeal, Boneshirt challenges the substantive reasonableness of his sentence.  We affirm....

In his sentencing memorandum, Boneshirt objected to the allegation that he had participated in a plan to escape from jail.  He also objected to the PSR's denial of the reduction for acceptance of responsibility and application of the enhancement for obstruction of justice.  In addition, Boneshirt argued that the court should impose a below-Guidelines sentence in light of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors. Specifically, he argued for leniency based on his youth and intoxicated state at the time of the offense, his difficult childhood, and his alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder....

After a careful review of the sentencing record, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Boneshirt to 576 months' imprisonment.  Both the sentencing hearing transcript and the court's statement of reasons explaining its sentence demonstrate that the court considered all of Boneshirt's arguments and the § 3553(a) factors, ultimately imposing the sentence based on the "nature of the offense, the nature of post-offense conduct, and the need to protect society from Mr. Boneshirt."...

In sum, the record indicates that, over the course of a six-hour sentencing hearing, the district court thoroughly considered all of Boneshirt's arguments, the facts, and the law in attempting to fashion an appropriate sentence.  The resulting sentence is harsh but is within the calculated Guidelines range and hence may be considered presumptively reasonable.  Frausto, 636 F.3d at 997.  Presumptively reasonable, however, does not mean unassailable. Yet this record is lacking in a demonstration of sentencing error on the part of the district court.  Many reasonable minds may have imposed a lesser sentence, but we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion and impose an unreasonable sentence by selecting a high but within-Guidelines sentence for a homicide offense.

Here is a passage from the relatively lengthy partial dissent authored by Judge Bright:

Boneshirt's forty-eight-year sentence is substantively unreasonable because the district court unreasonably weighed the facts at issue in the case. The district court failed to give proper weight to the fact that Boneshirt was a juvenile when he committed the crime, especially when his age is considered with his background and upbringing. And further, the district court’s sentence placed too much weight on a plan to escape by Boneshirt when he was pending sentencing.

October 31, 2011 at 03:07 PM | Permalink

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Always address an intimate companion as, "Dear."

Posted by: JAG | Nov 1, 2011 10:49:16 PM

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