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July 12, 2011

Through the federal "crime of violence" looking glass with the Tenth Circuit

ImagesCAT7YT1L Among a number of interesting and notable federal criminal justice rulings handed down by the Tenth Circuit today is US v. Armijo, No. 09-1533 (10th Cir. July 12, 2011) (available here), which in the course of many dense pages highlights the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of some modern federal sentencing doctrine.

In short form, Armijo holds that a Colorado conviction for manslaughter is not a "crime of violence" for federal guideline calculation purposes, while a Colorado conviction for felony menacing is a "crime of violence" for federal guideline calculation purposes.  In other words, according to the Tenth Circuit's understanding of federal sentencing doctrines, the defendant in Armijo is not to be subject to a "crime of violence" guideline enhancement based on killing somebody a certain way in Colorado, but he is to be subject to such an enhancement based on threatening somebody a certain way in Colorado.  (I am tempted to joke that shrewd offenders in Colorado should start killing folks before threatening them.)

I am not faulting the Tenth Circuit for its (Mad Hatter) ruling as much as I fault the US Supreme Court, the US Sentencing Commission and especially the US Congress for letting federal sentencing doctrine get to a point where lower federal courts are forced to sort through these crazy legal disputes.  And I fear that, despite cries by Justices Alito and Scalia (and others), for Congress (or others) to clean up this mess, lower federal court judges will not be able to escape Wonderland anytime soon.

July 12, 2011 at 04:24 PM | Permalink


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i'm with you this guy is pretty stupid! but the people even considering it are even WORSE!

need to take him back to his cell and have a few of the boys beat some brains into him!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 12, 2011 10:17:40 PM

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