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February 10, 2024

Rounding up a handful of notable weekend reads

Travel (and football) leaves me with limited time for blogging this weekend, and so I will rely on the classic round-up post to spotlight a some notable recent press pieces:

From AL.com, "Alabama granted his parole but never let him out of prison, lawsuit says"

From the AP, "Idaho inmate nearing execution wants a new clemency hearing. The last one was a tie"

From Fox News, "Families of Alabama inmates allege organs were removed without consent as expert eyes wider 'problem'"

From The Hill, "The federal prison system is in crisis. Here are the top 3 reasons why."

From The Nation, "It’s Known as 'Death by Incarceration.' These People Want to End It."

From the San Francisco Chronicle, "S.F. Mayor London Breed joins GOP-led effort to overhaul Prop. 47"

From the Star Tribune, "Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty opens application process for incarcerated people to request reduced sentence"

From WFTS, "Attorneys, judges split over which death penalty cases need 8-4 vote by jury"

February 10, 2024 in Recommended reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 9, 2024

"The 'Red' vs. 'Blue' Crime Debate and the Limits of Empirical Social Science"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new Issue Brief from the Manhattan Institute authored by George Borjas and Robert VerBruggen. Here is how it gets started:

For the past two years, several think tanks on opposite sides of the political divide have waged war over whether “red” or “blue” America has a worse crime problem.  Commentators on the left have pointed out that red states have higher homicide rates than blue states, while those on the right have noted that the relationship is more nuanced and can easily flip at a more local level: red-state crime problems are often concentrated in blue cities, and red counties have lower murder rates than blue counties.

In this brief, we do two things.

First, we highlight this debate as an example of how seemingly minor research decisions — such as whether to analyze data at the state or at the local level — can drastically change results.  If we look at the county level, Democratic areas seem particularly murder-ridden; but when we look at the state level, Republican states are clearly more violent.  Casual consumers of empirical social science research often fail to appreciate all the ways in which researchers can manipulate the data to say whatever they want.

Second, we want to move the debate forward by showing how the correlation between crime and partisanship changes after adjusting for differences in social characteristics that could affect both crime rates and partisanship, such as the age, income, and racial composition of the region.  Previous analyses have sometimes noted the importance of these potential confounders, but few have addressed the problem clearly and compellingly.

The upshot is that models with control variables — in other words, models that compare states or counties with roughly similar demographic and economic characteristics — tell a much less spectacular story than those without. In fact, by adjusting for differences in basic demographic and economic characteristics, we can easily make the red–blue difference in homicide rates disappear.  Perhaps further research with more advanced and complex designs could make additional progress on the question.  However, given the sensitivity of the conclusions to how the researcher chooses to analyze the data, we suspect that such effort would be better spent studying and debating concrete policies, as opposed to figuring out which political party has the most violent constituents.

The authors of this issue brief also have this short City Journal piece headlined "More Crime Analysis, Less Crime Politics: Both sides of the debate manipulate data for their own purposes."  It starts this way:

Since crime spiked in 2020, politicians and pundits have scrambled to figure out what they think is the root problem: whether Republicans or Democrats are more to blame.

Conservatives blame soft-on-crime policies in big cities, noting that many Democratic-run cities have long suffered from high crime rates and that many such places experienced particularly large spikes over the past four years. Liberals counter that, at the state level, it’s Trump-voting states that have higher murder rates, which they largely blame on irresponsible gun laws.

In a new Manhattan Institute brief, we try to calm things down a bit — and urge those worried about crime to think about which policies work, not about whether the politicians implementing them happen to be Democrats or Republicans.

February 9, 2024 in Elections and sentencing issues in political debates, National and State Crime Data | Permalink | Comments (7)

Long declination memo from DOJ Special Counsel looking into Prez Biden's retention of classified materials

Because I am on the road, I have not yet had time to process more than the headlines surrounding the release of the big report by the Justice Department Special Counsel investigating Prez Biden’s mishandling of classified documents.  This Politico piece has a full headline that seems to provide a functional summary of the essential story: "Special counsel passes on charging Biden but paints damning portrait of him: The report criticized Biden’s conduct, saying he improperly took classified material related to the 2009 Afghanistan troop surge and shared classified information with the ghostwriter of his 2017 memoir."

The political echoes of this report seem certain to last longer than the specific concerns about how Special Counsel Robert K. Hur reached this outcome (which is the first sentence of the report): "We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter."  But for those with the time to review how this conclusion was reached, the full massive report is available here.  Here is part of the start of the executive summary of the report:

Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen. These materials included (1) marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, and (2) notebooks containing Mr. Biden's handwritten entries about issues of national security and foreign policy implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods. FBI agents recovered these materials from the garage, offices, and basement den in Mr. Biden's Wilmington, Delaware home.

However, for the reasons summarized below, we conclude that the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecution of Mr. Biden is also unwarranted based on our consideration of the aggravating and mitigating factors set forth in the Department of Justice's Principles of Federal Prosecution. For these reasons, we decline prosecution of Mr. Biden.

February 9, 2024 in Celebrity sentencings, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (8)

February 8, 2024

GAO releases big report examining BOP's use of "restrictive housing"

The United States Government Accountability Office recently released this big new report titled "Bureau of Prisons: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Restrictive Housing Practices." An introduction one-page to the document discusses "Why GAO Did This Study" and "What GAO Recommends" and "What GAO Found," and here are excerpts from this discussion:

DOJ’s BOP is responsible for confining individuals in safe, humane, and appropriately secure conditions. In certain circumstances, such as alleged or substantiated violence, BOP can move individuals to restrictive housing, and generally isolate them in cells for up to 23 hours per day. As of October 2023, BOP continued to house about 8 percent of its population (about 12,000 individuals) in these settings. Strengthening management of federal prisons was added to GAO’s high-risk list earlier this year.

Among its objectives, GAO was asked to examine the extent to which BOP (1) addressed recommendations from two prior restrictive housing studies; and (2) leveraged facility information to ensure restrictive housing policy compliance and enhance operations.

GAO analyzed BOP policies and data; interviewed BOP officials; and conducted non-generalizable interviews with staff and incarcerated individuals at five BOP facilities— selected to cover a range of restrictive housing unit types.

GAO is making eight recommendations to BOP, including that it assign responsibility and establish time frames for recommendation implementation and identify the cause of racial disparity in SMU placements. BOP concurred with the eight recommendations but raised related concerns; GAO discusses these in the report.

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has not fully implemented 54 of the 87 recommendations from two prior studies on improving restrictive housing practices. The first study, completed by a BOP contractor in 2014, had 34 recommendations (16 of which are fully implemented.) The other evaluation, completed in 2016 by the Department of Justice (DOJ), had 53 recommendations (17 of those are fully implemented). A May 2022 Executive Order on criminal justice practices directed the Attorney General to ensure full implementation of the January 2016 recommendations. BOP has made slow progress due in part to not assigning responsibility for recommendation implementation to appropriate officials and not establishing associated time frames for completion....

During the 2014 contracted assessment, reviewers found inconsistencies in the application of subjective criteria used to place individuals in the special management unit (SMU)—one that is designed for individuals with heightened security concerns. GAO’s analysis of 2022 data appears to confirm that inconsistencies continued, resulting in equity concerns. Black individuals were 38 percent of the total BOP population but 59 percent of the SMU placements. In comparison, White individuals were 58 percent of the total BOP population and 35 percent of the SMU placements. In response to management challenges, earlier this year BOP closed its remaining SMU and has not yet decided on the future of such units. Analyzing the cause of the substantial racial disparity could inform BOP and DOJ decisions on the future of restricted housing and help ensure consistent and equitable treatment of incarcerated individuals.

February 8, 2024 in Prisons and prisoners, Race, Class, and Gender, Scope of Imprisonment | Permalink | Comments (4)

No criminal law opinions from SCOTUS on day of oral argument over constitutional collateral consequences

Though many SCOTUS watchers are understandably focused on today's oral argument in Trump v. Anderson, I flagged earlier this week in this post that I was hoping the Pulsifer case dealing with a sentencing provision of the FIRST STEP Act would be handed down this morning.  But, as I had predicted and feared, we today only got from the Justices two opinions in civil cases, both of which were relatively short and unanimous (though one ruling, in Murray v. UBS Securities, engages a kind of mens rea issue under the whistleblower provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.)

But while reflecting on today's SCOTUS activities, I got to thinking about whether it might be fair and perhaps even useful to describe the issue before the Court in Trump v. Anderson as concerning what might be called a distinctive "constitutional collateral consequence."  Specifically, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment provides that certain persons who "have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof" shall not be allowed to hold certain government jobs.  And, notably, this Section also provide a means of "record relief": "Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

I have only vaguely followed all the debates and discussions surrounding the proper interpretation of Section 3, and I am glad lots of other folks are far more engaged by all the historical, doctrinal and pragmatic issues to consider in this matter.  How SCOTUS discusses this provision during oral argument today and in its ultimate ruling will certainly serve to define just how Section 3 is viewed and framed in this election year and beyond.  But I wonder if others think it useful or perhaps silly to view of this part of the 14th Amendment as a kind of "constitutional collateral consequence."

February 8, 2024 in Collateral consequences, Criminal Sentences Alternatives, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 7, 2024

"One Year Post-Bruen: An Empirical Assessment"

The title of this post is the title of this new article authored by Eric Ruben, Rosanna Smart and Ali Rowhani-Rahbar just published in the Virginia Law Review Online. Here is its abstract:

In the year after New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a steady stream of highly publicized opinions struck down a wide range of previously upheld gun restrictions.  Courts declared unconstitutional policies ranging from assault weapon bans to domestic abuser prohibitions to various limits on publicly carrying handguns.  Those opinions can frequently be paired with others reaching the opposite conclusion.  The extent to which Bruen shook up the Second Amendment landscape and has caused widespread confusion in the courts is starting to come into focus.

This Essay measures Bruen’s aftereffects by statistically analyzing a year’s worth of Second Amendment opinions.  We coded more than 450 challenges for dozens of variables including both case and judge characteristics, resulting in a comprehensive post-Bruen Second Amendment dataset.  The findings of our analysis provide an objective basis for assessing the upheaval wrought by Bruen and highlight both unanswered questions and immense challenges for Second Amendment doctrine in the coming years.

February 7, 2024 in Gun policy and sentencing, Second Amendment issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Prison Policy Initiative highlights prison disciplinary fines and fees

The Prison Policy Initiative has this new briefing titled "Prison disciplinary fines only further impoverish incarcerated people and families." Authored by Leah Wang, here is how it starts (with links from the original, but footnotes removed):

In yet another example of how the criminal legal system extracts wealth from the poorest families, at least one-third of prison systems nationwide charge fines as a punishment for a rule violation.  Prison administrators claim that imposing disciplinary fines, along with other punishments, helps to maintain order and reduce violence in correctional facilities.  They also argue that the fines simulate outside-of-prison processes for dealing with misconduct, such as parking tickets.

Though rule violations and their corresponding sanctions are a common feature of incarceration, disciplinary fines and fees aren’t the way to create safe environments where people can prepare for their release.  On the contrary, when prisons impose these charges and subsequently help themselves to the funds in people’s prison accounts, incarcerated people are often left with little to no money for purchasing essential items and services that the prison doesn’t provide.  As a result, their mental and physical health suffers, creating a more volatile environment inside. Loved ones also pay the price of these fines — often literally, as a primary source of financial support.

Like medical “co-pays” and exceedingly low wages in prison, disciplinary fines and fees are little more than a means to exploit incarcerated people.  Whether they’re tiered fines or flat “administrative” fees, they are an undue burden; prison is already one big financial sanction for those who are already on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.  By focusing on punitive measures that deprive people further, prisons miss the mark on what actually makes prisons safer — providing opportunity rather than taking it away.  We hope advocates and policymakers will understand how disciplinary fees, which exist alongside other excessive punishments, undermine the rehabilitative goals of corrections, the safety of people inside, and the odds of success during reentry.

February 7, 2024 in Fines, Restitution and Other Economic Sanctions, Prisons and prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 6, 2024

"The Limited Moral Relevance of Pleas and Verdicts"

The title of this post is the title of this book chapter recently posted to SSRN and authored by Adam J. Kolber.  Here is its abstract:

Pleas and verdicts dramatically affect our moral assessments of defendants even when they add no new information about underlying evidence.  People often perceive defendants differently just prior to a verdict relative to just after, even when they know the underlying facts as well as jurors do.  We seem to give pleas and verdicts moral significance that outstrips their epistemic significance.

In this chapter, I argue that pleas and verdicts have less moral significance than we often ascribe to them.  While we sometimes give conviction a kind of magical significance, pleas and verdicts usually only provide modest morally-relevant information at least to those closely following a case.  Though some communicative theories of punishment ascribe special non-instrumental symbolic meaning to conviction, what I call the “radical indeterminacy of punishment severity” undermines the ability of pleas and convictions to accurately communicate amounts of condemnation.

February 6, 2024 in Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Purposes of Punishment and Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0)

You be the sentencing judge: what sentence for Jennifer Crumbley after manslaughter convictions based on her son's mass school shooting?

I high-profile state homicide trial concluded this afternoon in Michigan with guilty verdicts from the jury for Jennifer Crumbley, mother of school shooter Ethan Crumbley.  This lengthy CNN article, headlined "Jennifer Crumbley, mother of school shooter, found guilty of manslaughter in test of who’s responsible for a mass shooting," provide a lot of details and context surrounding the trial.  But I am already eager to turn to the sentencing, and this local article provides these particulars:

The mother of the Oxford High School shooter could receive a prison sentence lasting anywhere from a few years to decades after being convicted Tuesday of four counts of involuntary manslaughter. After seven days of witness testimony and nearly two days of deliberations, jurors found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting that left four children dead and seven people injured. Both Crumbley and her husband were charged with four counts, and are standing trial separately.

By declaring the Oxford shooter’s mother guilty, jurors had to agree that the prosecution proved at least one of two theories: that involuntary manslaughter resulted from Crumbley’s failure to perform a legal duty, or that she committed involuntary manslaughter because she was grossly negligent. Jurors did not have to agree on which theory, so long as they all believed at least one was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Oxford shooter’s mother is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9 in Oakland County. The actual sentence she’ll receive, however, is unknown. For an involuntary manslaughter conviction in Michigan, the punishment is up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Because Crumbley was convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, it is possible she could be sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in prison if the judge decides to hand down the maximum sentence -- and if the judge decides to make those sentences consecutive. Some experts believe this sentence would be harsh under the circumstances....

Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews could decide to hand down the maximum sentence of 15 years for each count, but order them to run concurrently, so the max would still be 15 years.... The decision is ultimately up to the judge, and any guess as to a sentence would be solely speculative. In Michigan, the average sentencing for involuntary manslaughter is about 5-7 years per death, according to research done by Michigan defense law firm Barone.

So, dear readers, any early thoughts on a sound sentencing outcome in this notable case?

February 6, 2024 in Offender Characteristics, Offense Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (7)

DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime proposes new rules to enhance the federal crime victim compensation program

As reported in this new AP piece, the "Justice Department proposed changes Monday to rules governing state-run programs that provide financial assistance to violent crime victims in order to address racial disparities and curb the number of subjective denials of compensation." Here is more:

The proposal from the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime, a major overhaul to how states across the U.S. currently handle victims compensation claims, comes less than a year after an Associated Press investigation exposed that Black victims were disproportionately denied in many states — often for subjective reasons rooted in implicit biases that are felt across the criminal justice system. If adopted, the changes would bar states from considering a victim’s criminal history and eliminate some of the most subjective reasons for denials in many states.

“Certain populations may be more likely to have criminal history due to unjustified disparate treatment in the criminal justice system or due to criminal conduct induced through force, fraud, or coercion, such as unlawful acts that traffickers compelled their victims to commit, and this can result in unjustifiably disproportionate denial of claims for those populations,” according to the proposal.

Thousands of Americans each year turn to the state-run victim compensation programs that provide financial assistance to victims of violent crime. The money is used to help with funeral expenses, physical and emotional therapy, lost wages, crime-scene cleanup and more. But the AP found last year that in 19 out of the 23 states willing to provide racial data, Black victims were disproportionately denied compensation. In Indiana, Georgia and South Dakota, Black applicants were nearly twice as likely as white applicants to be denied. From 2018 through 2021, the denials added up to thousands of Black families each year collectively missing out on millions of dollars in aid.

Thousands of people are denied compensation every year for often subjective reasons that scrutinize victims’ behavior before or after a crime. The AP found that Black victims were nearly three times as likely to be denied for these reasons, including a category often called “contributory misconduct” where programs sometimes, without evidence, accuse victims of causing or contributing to their own victimization.

The proposed changes would strictly limit when a state program can deny a person for misconduct including requiring that states put into law or policy what is specifically considered contributory conduct and the process they use to decide if it is being applied in a denial. The proposal also clarifies that state programs should not claw back money victims receive from crowdfunding sources such as GoFundMe among other changes....

Over the last decade, several states have passed laws or made administrative regulation changes to limit some of the most subjective kinds of denials. Other states have passed laws expanding access to the funding or adding covered expenses. Many of those changes came after victims and advocates protested, testified and urged lawmakers to change the rules.

Lenore Anderson, president and co-founder of Alliance for Safety and Justice, which organizes victims to advocate for criminal justice reforms, praised the federal office and the proposed changes. “These proposed reforms are a long time coming. Too many victims across the country have faced extraordinary barriers trying to get help in times of crisis,” she said, noting the proposals align with criticisms advocates have been hearing from victims for decades. “The Office for Victims of Crime is really focused on expanding victim access. They are really focused on securing fair access to help that is desperately needed in times of crisis. This is thoughtful rulemaking that should be applauded.”...

Many of the items in the proposal Monday give states more room to expand services and approve claims. The proposal would allow states to apply a broader definition to medical or mental health expenses to allow people in rural areas with fewer licensed providers to find care or to allow for Native American healing practices to be covered expenses. The proposal would allow for a broader definition of who would be eligible to include people beyond a close familial relationship to a victim and allow for states to create broader definitions of allowable property damage expenses that contribute to victim safety.

The publication of the proposed rule changes opens a 60-day public comment period. It can take several months to process those comments and submit final rule changes.

The Office of Victims of Crime provides more background and details about how to comment on these new proposed rule at this link.

February 6, 2024 in Fines, Restitution and Other Economic Sanctions, Victims' Rights At Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 5, 2024

"Repairing the 'Sea of Disorganized' Procedures for Determining Competency for Execution"

The title of this post is the title of this new article now available via SSRN and authored by Melanie Kalmanson and Bridget Maloney. Here is its abstract:

When the government executes a person with severe mental illness, it is questionable whether the execution even serves any true retributive purpose due to the prisoner’s inability to rationally understand the reasoning for the execution.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Ford v. Wainwright, scholars and courts have debated the appropriate process for determining a prisoner’s competency for execution — and what that even means.

Despite decades of discourse, recent cases — most significantly recent executions of persons who suffered from severe mental illness — illustrate that the processes used across the country for determining competency for execution are insufficient.  This article presents a multifaceted solution to how states can improve their processes for reviewing whether prisoners are competent for execution in an effort to ensure each execution comports with the requirements of the Eighth Amendment, as established in Ford and its progeny.  Practically, the article proposes recommendations for the process courts use to determine whether a prisoner is incompetent for execution — including imposing a mandatory stay to allow adequate time for the determination and updating the standard of incompetency.  Also, for the first time, this article contemplates regulating certain aspects of experts’ evaluations of prisoners who claim incompetency for execution — including requiring certain diagnostic imaging and standardizing the format of expert evaluations.

February 5, 2024 in Death Penalty Reforms, Offender Characteristics, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (4)

With possible opinions this week, might SCOTUS soon answer if "and" means "or" in Pulsifer safety valve case?

Regular readers likely recall that I have been watching closely the SCOTUS sentencing case of Pulsifer v. United States, a statutory interpretation matter dealing with a (too) complicated sentencing provision of the FIRST STEP Act.  The unclear statute at issue in Pulsifer became law in 2018, was dividing circuits by 2021,and the Pulsifer cert petition was filed in October 2022 and granted by SCOTUS in February 2023.  (In addition, the US Sentencing Commission felt compelled in 2023 to build guideline amendments around the statutory ambiguity.)  A resolution of the issue in Pulsifer — which can be imperfectly summarized as a question of whether "and" means "and" or "or" in the context of an expansion of the safety value mandatory minimum exception — has long been needed and has been a long time coming.

But the Supreme Court has now indicated that on Thursday, the day the Justices are scheduled to hear oral argument on whether Donald Trump is now constitutionally ineligible to be President, it "may announce opinions."  I think that means we will definitely get at least one opinion, though how many and which one are left as matter of speculation.  So, in this post, I am speculating on the chances that we could get Pulsifer this week.  And though I am wishing hard that the Pulsifer opinion is just days away, and even though the Pulsifer oral argument was the very first of this current Term, I am not getting my hopes up.

The Justices have been notably slow in the release of opinions this Term, and Adam Feldman here at Empirical SCOTUS has some great data and thoughts on opinion pacing.  So, it wil not surprise me if we were to get only one or two opinions this week.   And, historically, the opinions that get handed down "earlier" are those that are unanimous or nealy unanimous.  The oral argument in Pulsifer suggested a divided court, with at least a couple Justices appearing to have strong views on each side of the case.  Though I suspect we will get Pulsifer within the next few months and not have to wait until late June, I would not place a prop bet that it's coming this week.  But it would be cool to be proven wrong with this prognostication.

A few prior related posts about SCOTUS Pulsifer case:

February 5, 2024 in Drug Offense Sentencing, FIRST STEP Act and its implementation, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sentences Reconsidered, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 4, 2024

Highlighting just some of lots of criminal justice coverage at Bolts

I am pretty sure I have in this space praised the work being done at the digital magazine Bolts.  The folks there provide more dynamic criminal justice coverage than I can keep up with, but I figured I would flag here three recent pieces that might be of particular interest to sentencing fans:

"A Wave of States Reduce 'Death by Incarceration' for Young Adults:  Massachusetts banned sentences of life without parole for “emerging adults” up to age 21, the latest in a series of states revisiting who counts as young in the eyes of the law."

"Under the Shadow of the Extreme Case: On his first day in office, Los Angeles DA George Gascón rolled out a suite of blanket bans against some severe punishments. The ensuing years have been a crash course in the politics of reforming prosecution."

"New Jersey May Open Juries to Most People with Criminal Convictions: New Jersey has one of the nation's harshest jury exclusion laws. A bill championed by formerly incarcerated people seeks to walk that back and make juries more diverse as a result."

February 4, 2024 in Recommended reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

First capital child rape charge under new Florida law results in LWOP plea and sentence

Nearly a year ago, Florida enacted a new law making certain child rapes a capital offense, and I asked in this post: "With new Florida law authorizing death penalty for child rape, how might SCOTUS get to reconsider Kennedy?".  Two months ago, as detailed in this  post, Florida prosecutors filed court documents stating its intent to seek the death penalty against Joseph Andrew Giampa after he was indicted on multiple counts of sexual battery on a child under age 12. 

I reacted to this potentially historic capital case by speculating about the possibility of a plea deal to take the death penalty off the table, wondering in particular if prosecutors would agree to such a deal.  This local article reports that such a plea deal was made, and an LWOP sentence was entered last week:

A Leesburg man has been sentenced to life in prison for forcing a young girl to engage in sexual acts.

Joseph Andrew Giampa, 36, through his defense attorney, conveyed an offer to serve the rest of his natural life in prison.  At the request of the victim’s family and with the interests of the child victim in mind, the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office agreed to this resolution.  Under this agreement, Giampa will spend the remainder of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“Resolution in less than 100 days is proof that Florida’s capital punishment statute for sexual battery of children is effective,” commented Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Gladson.  “By passing this law, the Florida legislature and the governor have sent a message that Florida has zero tolerance for those who prey upon our most vulnerable and that the punishment will be certain, swift and severe.”

Last year, investigators found a video on Giampa’s laptop of a female juvenile victim being recorded by an adult man, later identified as Giampa, holding the camera and talking to her.... 

Giampa was indicted by a grand jury in December 2023 for six counts of sexual battery upon a person under 12 years of age and three counts of promoting a sexual performance by a child.  Shortly after Giampa was indicted, Gladson filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case pursuant to Florida Statutes 794.011(2)(a) and 921.1425, both of which pertain to the death penalty regarding sexual battery as a capital felony.

I am not too surprised that this case was resolved through an LWOP plea deal, which is not uncommon in capital cases when there is no dispute over guilt.  I am also not surprised that the victim’s family here was eager to have this case resolved through a plea deal rather than risk having the young rape victim grow up with her rape and rapist the center of legal appeals and debates for years.  So now we are back to waiting and wondering when and how Florida will secure a child rape death sentence that could provide an opportunity for SCOTUS to reconsider its Kennedy ruling that such a sentence violates the Eighth Amendment.

Prior related post:

February 4, 2024 in Death Penalty Reforms, Kennedy child rape case, Procedure and Proof at Sentencing, Sex Offender Sentencing, Who Sentences | Permalink | Comments (22)