Sentencing Archives

US Sentencing Commission Set to Revise White-Collar Crime Sentences

Earlier this year the US Sentencing Commission reduced guideline ranges for nonviolent drug crimes. This past Thursday, the federal panel unanimously approved its latest set of priorities: white-collar crime sentences. The panel revealed that it is considering changes to guidelines for some white-collar crimes. So what type of differences can we expect? The panel revealed that the top priority will be working with Congress on reducing the scope of mandatory minimum penalties, but another goal will be measuring the fairness of sentences for fraud and other economic crimes.

Obama's initiative is exposing more federal inmates to the possibility of clemency

An Obama administration initiative to encourage nonviolent drug offenders in federal prison to seek clemency is likely to trigger tens of thousands of petitions. Clemency is the act by an executive member of government of extending mercy to a convicted individual. In the United States, the pardon power for federal crimes is granted to the President under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. Obama's initiative was created with the purpose to reduce the prison population and to end disparities in drug sentencing. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole stated in a news conference, "for our criminal justice system to be effective, it needs to not only be fair but it also must be perceived as being fair." So what type of criteria must an inmate meet before they are applicable for consideration?

What if you were convicted of a crime you did not commit?

Fred Weichel has spent the past 32 years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. Weichel was found guilty of murdering 25 year old Robert LaMonica in 1980 outside of the man's Braintree apartment. Recently, after developing a relationship with a fellow inmate, Weichel is looking to have his conviction overturned. The relationship Weichel developed is with convicted mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, who says he knew the real killer.

When will a stay of execution be granted?

Convicted serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells was executed last Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue a stay to consider his lawyers' bid for more information on the drugs that would be used to kill him. A stay of execution is a court order that temporarily suspends the execution for a specific reason. Sells' attorneys had sought more information about the manufacturer of the execution drug. However, that stay was denied and Sells was executed.

What is a posthumous pardon?

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recently refused to issue a posthumous pardon for Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three children. After working diligently on his case, the Innocence Project is disappointed with the board's decision.

Counsel's Failure to Object Cost Client Jail Time

Edwin Aguilar-Ibarra pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery and the commission of a Hobbs Act robbery and was sentenced to 87-months. Prior to his sentencing, his defense counsel failed to make timely objections to the presentence investigation report. As a result, Aguilar-Ibarra was given a two-level bodily injury enhancement. Aguilar-Ibarra appealed the sentence and challenged the district court's decision to apply the enhancement. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences: No Longer Seen as a Positive Solution

Mandatory minimum sentences were once created as a "one-size-fits-all" solution for sentencing disparities. However, these sentences have recently been recognized as coming up short of these expectations. This recognition arises from reasons such as the fairness of the sentences and the expense of running federal prisons. There have been a number of bills floated recently that attempt to reduce these sentences.

Court Reverses Carjacking Conviction on Double Jeopardy Grounds

Figgs timely appealed his sentence on double jeopardy grounds his sentences for carjacking with a firearm, sentences, and armed robbery. He contends that the trial court committed fundamental error in adjudicating him guilty and sentencing him on both the armed robbery and the carjacking with a firearm charges because the only item he took from the victim was the key to the car that he carjacked. The State conceded that his dual convictions violated double jeopardy. Therefore, the Fifth District Court of Appeals Court reversed his conviction for carjacking with a firearm and directed the trial court to vacate that conviction and sentence. The court affirmed his other convictions and sentences. Figgs v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2195b (Fla. 5th DCA 2013).

Important Federal Sentencing Guidelines Decision

In Rodriguez, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a four-level enhancement under federal sentencing guidelines section 2B1.1(b)(2)(B), after concluding that the Government had failed to present any "reliable and specific evidence" to support its contention that the defendant's fraud crimes involved more than 50 victims. Particularly noteworthy was the extremely critical concurring opinion written by Senior District Judge Dudley Bowen of the S.D.Ga., who wrote separately to comment on the Government's far too common "cavalier disregard" of its obligations to present real evidence at sentencing proceedings.

Rules for Withdrawing a Guilty Plea after Sentencing

The Florida Supreme Court in Campbell v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly S727a (Fla. 2013) found that a defendant is not entitled to withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere following the rendition of a sentence, based solely on the trial court's failure to formally accept the plea as set forth in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure.

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