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October 30, 2006

Rough monday for defendants in the Seventh Circuit

Even with an extra hour of sleep this weekend, Mondays can often be rough for everyone.  But today was an especially tough day for criminal defendants in the Seventh Circuit, where I see four criminal convictions and sentences affirmed.   

Sentencing folk will be most interested in US v. Wurzinger, No. 05-3803 (7th Cir. Oct. 30, 2006) (available here).  Wurzinger includes some discussion of the circuit's presumption of reasonableness for within-guideline sentences, and an extended analysis of the defendant's argument that his sentence is unreasonably long because he is likely to die in prison.  Here are some notable passages from Wurzinger (with cites omitted):

There is a worthy tradition that death in prison is not to be ordered lightly, and the probability that a convict will not live out his sentence should certainly give pause to a sentencing court. Wurzinger’s key argument is not the nonstarter that "age per se is a mitigating factor" (though he does attempt that argument as well), but that a sentence of death in prison is notably harsher than a sentence that stops even a short period before.  Death is by universal consensus a uniquely traumatic experience, and prison often deprives defendants of the ability to be with their families or to otherwise control the circumstances of death....

While we say nothing about whether a lower sentence would have been equally reasonable, age and illness do not, in the face of the circumstances presented here, make Wurzinger's sentence unreasonable.  While some of the district court's comments were a mite strange — most notably the claim that Wurzinger, at fifty-eight, was "a pretty young guy" (Sentencing Tr. at 15) — on the whole, it offered a reasonable explanation of why Wurzinger's conduct justified a sentence at the top of the recommended guidelines range.

October 30, 2006 at 02:08 PM | Permalink


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22 years for making meth? What the heck is wrong with this country?

Posted by: tomtomclub | Oct 30, 2006 5:36:46 PM

"Death is by universal consensus a uniquely traumatic experience . . . ." Slip. Op. at 6. I don't know about everyone else, but the Seventh Circuit with its never-ending sarcasm is getting old. Apparently Posner has got them all trained. One would think that a court would not be so glib when discussing the very real effects of a sentence on a very real person.

Posted by: | Oct 30, 2006 7:32:26 PM

Oh the horror, a court that deals with literally thousands of sentences gets a little witty about some poor dear who's going to spend a good stretch in the pokey for selling a highly addictive drug that has wreaked havoc on rural America. Please spare us the piety.

Tomtomclub, there are just too many law and order types like me who think that people who peddle this poison ought to be harshly punished. The NYTimes did an article a while back about the ravages of meth and the child victims of meth addiction and meth labs. It is horrifying. 22 years is a fair sentence.

Posted by: Sean O'Brien | Oct 31, 2006 2:30:04 AM

I live in this area was was indirectly affected by this hillbilly drug cartel. 22 years is nothing. Do you know how many peoples lives he has ruined by making this poisen available in the area? Personally if I though I could have gotten away with it, I would have put a bullet in his head. He is getting off easy. And at 52 years old? Justice has been served!

Posted by: Joe | Nov 26, 2006 1:59:28 AM

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