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February 22, 2006

The realities of sentencing headlines

I have recently ranted about how much time and energy is spent on the death penalty when so many other consequential criminal justice issues merit more attention from public policy groups and the media.  But California developments yesterday, and the subsequent media coverage, perhaps highlight why I may always be tilting at windmills when I complain about our "legal culture of death."

As I explained here, the SCOTUS cert grant in Cunningham, a California Blakely case, will impact of thousands of sentences in California and could impact hundreds of thousands of sentences nationwide.  Even federal sentencing fans must keep a close eye on Cunningham, because the case could mark an important turning point in the Court's Sixth Amendment jurisprudence and it presents a key opportunity for the two new Justices to take stock of this jurisprudence. 

And yet, there has been almost no media coverage of the Cunningham cert grant.  Tellingly, the AP ran this story about the denial of cert in a capital case yesterday, but had no story on Cunningham that I have seen.  Tony Mauro's review of SCOTUS action in this article relegates the Cunningham cert grant to a brief mention (and even gets the name of the case wrong).  The Los Angeles Times today has this very brief account of Cunningham, but it provides no sense of the case's importance.

In contrast, California's struggles to kill death row defendant Michael Morales (basics here and here) has made headlines in nearly every paper in the country.  The Los Angeles Times today has this massive article about the stalled Morales execution (and this companion piece), the AP has had two reporters and major coverage on the case, the New York Times has this story, and nearly every California paper has a piece on the Morales case.  I suppose I just have to resign myself to the reality that, at least when it comes to ink, death will always be different.

February 22, 2006 at 07:41 AM | Permalink


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what exactly could Cunningham do to federal sentencing?

Posted by: RL Swainston | Feb 22, 2006 9:19:25 AM

The California Supreme Court defended its decision to dodge Blakely by asserting its sentencing system is parallel to the post-Booker federal sentencing system. And California will surely style its defense in the Supreme Court this way. How the High Court addresses such a Booker defense could certainly impact the post-Booker federal sentencing world.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 22, 2006 9:53:24 AM

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