Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Recently we looked at the musings of a retired federal judge who confessed that she over-sentenced defendants to hundreds of years in prison. Now let's look at how a Federal District Judge in Florida confronts his task of fair sentencing in a Duke Law School PDF, Who appointed me God?

Missing Winston Churchill
His goal of fair sentencing was made more difficult at least in regard to possible bias after a defendant he'd recently sentenced shot at him while the judge was sitting at home in his favorite chair with his wife a few feet away. Though the bullet missed, the judge could not quite stomach Winston Churchill's belief that "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."

While looking at his own possible bias he notes that his staff believes he seems to give female defendants more lenient sentences. He justifies this by noting that unlike most male defendants the women often represent the sole support for children and other dependants. 

In looking for a just punishment he examines the inherent conflicts that arise with giving cooperators substantial assistance and the fact that prosecutors too often control the process since the judge can not give credit for cooperation unless the federal prosecutor files a motion for substantial assistance. Further, the judge notes that he tries to avoid randomness in sentencing so cases are consistently sentenced over a wide range of factual situations. This of course is possible only in cases that do not happen to trigger the 145 federal crimes that have federal minimum mandatory sentences.

And there lies the difference between an honest retired judge bemoaning her forced needless over-sentencing of hundreds of years and a sitting judge who blindly believes federal cases where he has actual sentencing discretion make up for all the ones where he has none. When he can truly make a difference for good in the lives of defendants, defendant's families and for victims, he does, and that's commendable. Yet it's troubling that he doesn't spend any time acknowledging the truth that for 145 federal crimes that trigger harsh minimum mandatory sentences he's just another voiceless cog within our corrupting criminal justice system justified and given authority by the false pretense that our federal judges have sentencing discretion.

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