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July 5, 2011

Mid-year thoughts on (slow?) 2011 for sentencing stories

As folks get back to work after the long holiday weekend, I have been thinking about what might become big sentencing stories through the second half of 2011. Nothing really major jumps to mind, perhaps in part because this current year has been relatively calm on various sentencing fronts.

In the death penalty arena, the Supreme Court issued no big rulings this past Term, and no major capital cases appear on the Court's horizon. illinois' decision to abolish the death penalty made for big news, though capital punishment had been functionally dead for a decade there already. Other states continue to struggle getting drugs needed for executions, though we have still had the usual pace of 4 or 5 executions each month nationwide through 2011.

In the federal sentencing arena, the US Sentencing Commission's retroactive application of the new lower crack guidelines is consequential (though not surprising). But Congress seems not yet interested in any broader sentencing reform in the wake of last year's passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. Likewise, while the Justice Department and perhaps the USSC will keep expressing concerns about troublesome features of the federal sentencing status quo, I doubt either will be proposing or pushing major reforms anytime soon.

Because of tight budgets and crowded prisons, state sentencing reforms have been the most dynamic and dramatic in the first part of 2011. And, thanks to the Supreme Court's Plata ruling, California is among the states having to prioritize sentencing and corrections reform.

Of course, for defendants, prosecutors and counsel directly impacted by 2011 developments to date, this year has already been eventful. But after more than half a decade in which a landmark SCOTUS ruling, or a Justice transition, or a national election made headlines through the summer months, right now 2011 feels a bit sleepy by comparison to this blogger

July 5, 2011 at 10:55 AM | Permalink


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What about this possible sentencing story: the use of acquitted felonious conduct in sentencing for misdemeanor convictions.

I can't imagine how that may be a sentencing story in 2011; oh wait:

Personally, I doubt this will become a story (she's already spent 3 years in jail). But a 4 year sentence is possible in the case, just because she lied to police.

Posted by: anon | Jul 5, 2011 4:03:09 PM

Here's a good one:


Posted by: Jonah | Jul 5, 2011 6:52:22 PM

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