04 June 2007

The Guidelines Are Dead, Long Live The Guidelines

A 42 year old woman, Ms. Pruitt, who's last criminal offense was in 1992 was caught with less than two ounced of drugs, worth well under $4,000. She had three minor felony drug convictions in the late 1980s and 1992, but she was clean for a decade and a half. She pleaded guilty -- she had no one else to throw under the bus in exchange for leniency. The sentence: 292 months (more than 24 years) -- more than the recommended sentence for a murderer with no prior criminal record.

Because she was sentenced to a term of imprisonment within the federal sentencing guidelines range, the sentences was afforded a presumption of reasonableness and upheld on appeal. But, as a concurring judge McConnell in the case noted, from any sensible perspective, her sentence was "wildly excessive." The sentencing guidelines made this wildly excessive sentence's survival of appellate review a foregone conclusion.

One of the best hopes for change was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court today because the defendant died before the case was decided.

So, another person's life is thrown away, at great expense of the state, for a petty crime. Just another ordinary day in the federal courts, I'm afraid, until Congress, of the United States Supreme Court, or the United States Sentencing Commission, or a new President, intervene to end the madness.

Hat Tip to How Appealing.

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