Sentencing

Robert Richards IV

Sex offenders are the lowest of the low in prison. He’s a rich, white boy who is a wuss and a child perv. The prison can’t protect them, and Jan Jurden knows that reality. She is right on.

– Defense attorney Joseph A. Hurley, commenting on Judge Jan Jurden’s sentence of probation for DuPont heir Robert H. Richards IV as punishment for the fourth-degree rape of his 3-year-old daughter. Jurden noted in her sentencing order that Richards would not “fare well” in prison.

A very Simpsonian sentence.

Boys do not hit girls.

Pacer Anthony Ferguson, 5,000 times, between December 23, 2013 and May 23, 2014. Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Ferguson to write this phrase on a numbered list as punishment for punching his girlfriend in the face.

(If you recall, Judge Baugh is known for sentencing a convicted rapist to 30 days in jail because the victim looked “older than her chronological age.” Perhaps he’s turned over a new leaf.)

(A stock photo of a teen driver — not actually Ethan Couch.)

I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard the story about the wealthy white teenager who killed four people while drunk driving. As we mentioned in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, 16-year-old Ethan Couch got off — sentenced to therapy — because the judge agreed that the kid was a victim of “affluenza”: his parents gave him everything he wanted, and he believed that being rich meant that he wouldn’t have to face consequences for his actions.

The kid’s not wrong; the fact that he’s not facing incarceration for killing four people kind of proves the point. A poor white kid would be in jail right now. A rich black kid would be in jail right now. A poor black kid would be picking out items for his last supper right now. Anybody who thinks that this kind of lenience would be given to anybody other than a wealthy white dauphin is wrong and stupid (and probably racist). The rich kid isn’t in jail because rich people don’t suffer the full force of consequences for their actions.

That said… the judge isn’t wrong either. When you have a jerk-off prick of a 16-year-old, as this kid appears to be, it’s probably not his fault. Not really. My outrage isn’t that Couch is getting off, it’s that so many other teens and young people are being incarcerated without this kind of compassion.

Not that there aren’t people who deserve jail time behind this. It’s just that those people are Couch’s parents….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense Of The Rich White Boy Who Killed Four People And Got Away With It”

You don’t often see federal courts striking down conditions of supervised release as violations of substantive due process. But you don’t often see the federal government wanting to hook up a device to a man’s penis, make the man watch pornography, and see what happens. It sounds a bit… 1984 (affiliate link).

I couldn’t help noticing this opinion, given its unusual nature and its focus on the peen. I’m sure you’re all dying to learn more about the procedure known as “penile plethysmography.” (The good news: it’s not as bad as a penile embolism or penile degloving.)

You know you want to see what those Second Circuit judges are hiding underneath their robes. Let’s dig a little deeper (into the opinion), shall we?

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Alan Dershowitz

It’s going to happen the way things always happen at the court. The court will appear to be leading, but it will be following.

– Professor Alan Dershowitz, offering a prediction about how the Supreme Court will eventually kill off the death penalty. The Court effectively suspended the death penalty in 1972 but brought it back in 1976, a story chronicled in a fascinating new book I’m currently reading, Evan Mandery’s A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America (affiliate link).

I support radical reform of our nation’s drug laws not despite my conservative political views, but because of them. Decriminalization efforts support at least three values that mean much to me as a conservative. Decriminalization falls in line with the conservative (or at least libertarian-leaning conservative) emphasis on personal liberty and the rights of individuals to make choices about how they govern themselves, so long as their actions don’t directly harm others. Decriminalization makes good moral sense too, by not vilifying addicts and by not needlessly breaking up families through incarcerating non-violent offenders. Perhaps most significantly, radically reforming current drug laws avoids the economic irresponsibility of America’s failed war on drugs.

This week, of course, Attorney General Eric Holder announced new Justice Department policies for drug prosecutions, while addressing the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. In his speech, Holder proposed tinkering with the application of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes; modifying the Justice Department’s charging policies “so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences”; and “taking steps to identify and share best practices for enhancing the use of diversion programs – such as drug treatment and community service initiatives – that can serve as effective alternatives to incarceration.”

I commend Holder’s effort. But as a conservative considering the economics of the drug war, I’m concerned that this new policy neglects one of the most significant reasons why we need much more radical reform than this . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Than Minimizing Mandatory Minimums: A Conservative Call for More Radical Drug Reform”

I didn’t go to Eric Holder’s big speech at the ABA annual meeting on Monday. I kind of halfheartedly tried to go, but there were a lot of people who wanted to see Holder say something they could’ve read about online hours earlier.

If the ABA had invited Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over to speak about the horrendous abuse of federal funds by purveyors of higher education, I’d have smashed my way in. But in the crush of people trying to get a look at the Attorney General trying to dismantle a big part of the United States “War On Drugs,” I was reminded that regulating legal education is a small part of what the ABA does — and a part that isn’t of great institutional importance to the organization. The ABA wants a seat at the policy table when it comes to big sexy issues of justice and legal services. Preventing member institutions from price-gouging young people doesn’t get its logo splashed across all the major news networks.

So, Eric Holder delivered a big policy address. And later, by which point I was on a plane, Hillary Clinton spoke about how she’ll be speaking about other things as she doesn’t run for president just yet. Holder! Hillary! Marvel at the ABA’s relevance in national policy debates!

Except, they’re not relevant. Holder did make an important speech on Monday, and he couldn’t have found a more supportive group for his take-down of mandatory minimums had he been speaking to potheads in Golden Gate Park. But really, the ABA isn’t going to be any more helpful when it comes to actually convincing Congress than a meeting of the 4:20 club…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Eric Holder Preaches To The Choir At ABA: It’s Nice When Lawyers Think People Will Listen To Them About Laws”

I took Crim Law my first semester in law school. My professor, now the school’s dean, was an imposing fellow to 1L eyes. He looked approximately seven feet tall, with a deep, booming voice, a propensity for cold-calling, and a demanding, often impenetrable teaching style. I loved the class, even though I went into fight-or-flight mode in the minutes before he would stroll down the aisle of the auditorium.

We read the Apprendi line of cases, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prevented judges from enhancing criminal sentences beyond statutory maximums based on facts other than those decided by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. I thought I grasped the gist, with my nervous 1L brain. Then we got to Harris v. United States. In Harris, the majority held that Apprendi did not apply to facts that would increase a defendant’s mandatory minimum sentence. Judges could apply mandatory minimums on the basis of facts not proved to a jury, without violating the Sixth Amendment. These fact were sentencing factors, the majority held, not offense elements.

Terrified that I had misunderstood something crucial, I visited my crim prof’s office before the class when we would discuss Harris. I recited the cases up to that point, if for no other reason than to show that I had, in fact, been reading and that my ultimate confusion was not because I was totally mentally challenged. (Even if just a little.) I summarized my understanding of the Court’s holding in Harris, why it just didn’t square, how I knew that I must be missing something, because I just didn’t see how Harris properly followed. After way too long, I finally sputtered, “Sir, I’m . . . I’m just . . . confused.”

My prof leaned back in his chair, paused dramatically, sighed, then replied, “Ms. Tabo, of course you are confused. The Supreme Court is confused.”

As of this week, the Court is no longer so confused….

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Left to right: Eric Cuellar, Hazhir Kargaran, and Justin Teixeira (click to enlarge).

Lawyers and Las Vegas are a dangerous combination. Just ask the lawyer who allegedly inflicted almost $100,000 in damage on a suite at the Encore Hotel.

Sin City seduces law students too. We’ve extensively covered the sad story of how three Berkeley law students, while visiting Vegas on spring break, killed a helmeted guinea fowl named “Turk” at the wildlife habitat of the Flamingo Hotel.

Two of the students, Eric Cuellar and Hazhir Kargaran, already pleaded guilty. So it should come as no surprise — with his co-defendants having cut deals, and with reported video footage of the incident as possible evidence — that Justin Teixeira copped a plea as well.

What kind of sentence did Teixeira get? It doesn’t sound that bad to me….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Final Guilty Plea in the Berkeley Bird Beheading”

It used to be, back before 2005, that the federal sentencing guidelines were mandatory. If you were going to be checking into the United States Bureau of Prisons, the sentencing guidelines determined how long your reservation would be for.

And, it used to be, that if you committed a federal crime, and, between when you committed the crime and were sentenced, the sentencing guidelines went up, the judge had to apply the lower sentencing guidelines from when you committed the crime.

To do otherwise would violate the Ex Post Facto clause.

The sentencing guidelines changed, though, with Booker. Now they aren’t mandatory – they’re just something important that a federal judge has to look at and a federal judge may be risking reversal if she doesn’t follow them.

Got that? The guidelines are totally discretionary. But for the appellate review. Also most federal judges follow the guidelines almost every time. But that’s just a coincidence.

So, since the guidelines are no longer mandatory, but, rather, now just followed in the vast majority of cases, what happens to the Ex Post Facto clause?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Does the Ex Post Facto Clause Apply To Suggestions?”

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