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October 7, 2008

Seventh Circuit reiterates duty to explain sentencing decision

In an important new article discussed here, Professor Michael O'Hear makes a strong argument that district courts should feel a strong obligation to "explain themselves when they reject a defendant's argument" for a lower sentence.  In light of his arguments, Professor O'Hear will likely be pleased with the Seventh Circuit's work today in US v. Jackson, No. 07-3226 (7th Cir. Oct. 7, 2008) (available here).  Here is how the Jackson decision begins:

Stanley F. Jackson pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).  Jackson was on probation and supervised release when he committed the charged offense so he received a four-year sentence from the state court for violating the terms of his release.  The district court then sentenced Jackson to 170 months’ imprisonment for the drug offense and imposed its sentence to run consecutively to that state sentence.

Jackson challenges the consecutive nature of his sentence, arguing that because the state sentence was imposed in part for conduct that was taken into consideration by the district court in calculating his Guidelines range, he was punished excessively for one course of conduct. Although the district court had the discretion to impose a consecutive sentence in this case pursuant to Section 5G1.3(c) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”), we are not confident that the district court considered the relevant factors before doing so. Therefore, we must remand for resentencing.

October 7, 2008 at 01:37 PM | Permalink


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You laud a call for judges to explain their reasons for REJECTING a requested downward variance, but (in a prior, recent post) criticized the Justice Department for appealing a District Court's failure to explain the basis for granting a large downward variance.

This is the clearest example of your pro-defendant, "prison-is-bad" approach to sentencing policy.

Posted by: Da Man | Oct 7, 2008 9:09:42 PM

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