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April 7, 2009

Iraqi shoe thrower gets prison sentence cut by appeals court

This BBC News article provides some additional evidence that crime and punishment in Iraq is very different than crime and punishment in the US:

The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at former US President George W Bush has had his sentence cut from three years to one year on appeal.  Muntadar al-Zaidi's lawyer argued that the charge should be changed from assault to insulting a foreign leader. The judge agreed and reduced the term in line with the less serious offence.

An official for the court said the presiding judge had also taken into account the fact that Zaidi had no prior criminal history. "The appeal court issued its decision today... taking into consideration that he [Zaidi] is still young and doesn't have any previous convictions," said Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, the spokesman for the Iraqi judicial council.

Zaidi's lawyer, Yaha al-Ittabi, said the decision showed "the independence and the integrity of the Iraqi judiciary".

Though this case garners much attention because of the notoriety of the victim of the offense, I cannot help but note the novelty of an appeals court reducing a prison sentence by 2/3.  I wish the independence and the integrity of the United States judiciary would sometimes lead an appellate court to rule that a young first-offender does not deserve as long a sentence as a sentencing court decided to impose.

April 7, 2009 at 02:56 PM | Permalink


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A verdict has come in, and sentence or damages determined, and handed down. Everyone is packing up to go home.

An executive branch official strides in, files a motion after the end of the tribunal. The request is to set aside the entire judgment for policy purposes. The judge does that immediately.

In what country does that take place? Here is a hint, the initials. USA.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 7, 2009 11:38:59 PM

Yep. In the post below this one. How sad, huh.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 8, 2009 1:22:21 AM

Appellate revision of sentences is actually very common outside the United States. In many Commonwealth countries, appellate courts have established "standard tariffs" for each offense, which can be reduced or augmented by particular court-identified mitigating or aggravating factors. The courts will then use these factors to determine whether the penalty imposed by the sentencing court was reasonable. It's essentially a sentencing guideline system, but one developed and administered by judges rather than an executive commission, and as such there is more flexibility to adjust it in particular cases.

I'm less familiar with civil-law systems such as Iraq, but many of them also have fairly strong appellate revision (possibly because they view lower court judges primarily as civil servants rather than bearers of independent authority). Exaggerated deference to lower courts seems to be mostly an American artifact.

Of course, revision can be upward as well as downward - Singapore, for instance, has a very well developed appellate revision system, and the state wins on appeal about as often as defendants do.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein | Apr 8, 2009 9:59:38 AM

Although, upon a second look, the Iraqi decision looks like a successful appeal of the charge, with the sentence revision following mostly from the reduction to a lesser offense.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein | Apr 8, 2009 10:02:10 AM

"Exaggerated deference to lower courts seems to be mostly an American artifact."

Yes, this is very true and it stems from the basic American belief in the value of subsidiariness. Whether this posture is "exaggerated" is open to debate; I think that if anything Americans defer to local conditions too infrequently. A federally imposed Sentencing Guidelines scheme is hardly deferring to anything that is either immediate or local.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 8, 2009 2:47:46 PM

i haven't heard about this, anyway, thanks...

Posted by: new sneaker | Jun 30, 2009 3:22:05 AM

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