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Criminal Law

Sentencing Law and Policy Sentencing Law and Policy

News, issues, commentary and provides resources related to sentencing law and policy.
By Douglas A. Berman

Post Frequency: 103.2/day

Last Entry: April 23, 2014 at 10:27:11

Recent Entries: 8772

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SCOTUS splits the difference for child porn restitution awards in Paroline

Posted on April 23, 2014
The Supreme Court handed down two criminal law opinions this morning, and the big one for sentencing fans is Paroline v. US, No. No. 12-8561 (Apr. 23, 2014) (available here). Intriguingly, Justice Kennedy authored opinion of the Court with Justices...


"Are female sex offenders treated differently?"

Posted on April 23, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of of this new Salon article which carries this subheadline: "A light sentence for a teacher suggests courts still don't get it about women predators." Here is how the piece begins: It?s...


President Bartlet urges Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act

Posted on April 23, 2014
I am pleased and intrigued to learn via this Mother Jones piece, headlined "Martin Sheen Reprises His 'West Wing' Role ? for a Sentencing Reform PSA," that a high-profile celebrity is making the case for federal sentencing reform. Here are...


Short federal sentence for cocaine offense when "'Breaking Bad' meets 'Walter Mitty'"

Posted on April 22, 2014
A remarkable federal drug sentencing case culminated in a short prison sentence as reported in this local article headlined "'Breaking Bad' meets 'Walter Mitty' in Alachua County contractor's cocaine sentencing." Here are the details: The judge said the criminal case...


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"'Not Just a Common Criminal': The Case for Sentencing Mitigation Videos"

Posted on April 22, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Regina Austin now available via SSRN. Here is the a abstract: Sentencing mitigation or sentencing videos are a form of visual legal advocacy that is produced...


Intriguing SCOTUS split over reasonable suspicion for traffic stop based on 911 call

Posted on April 22, 2014
The Supreme Court handed down two notable opinions this morning, and the one that should interest criminal justice fans is sure to get less attention than the one concerning state affirmative action laws. Nevertheless, the split of the Justices alone...


Ohio prosecutors author lengthy minority report assailing work of death penalty task force

Posted on April 22, 2014
As reported in this local article, headlined "Critics: Supreme Court task force's death penalty recommendations would create legal 'nightmares'," Ohio prosecutors involved with the work of a task force created by the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Bar Association...


Is Prez Obama likely to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of imprisoned drug offenders?

Posted on April 21, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable new and lengthy Yahoo News article headlined "Obama plans clemency for hundreds of drug offenders: Barbara Scrivner's long quest for mercy tests a president's will ? and...


SCOTUS takes up two criminal cases, including yet another ACCA application question

Posted on April 21, 2014
As reported here at SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court this morning granted cert on three new cases, two of which involve criminal justice matters: The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on whether the president has the sole power to...


Split Oklahoma Supreme Court stays executions based on drug secrecy concerns

Posted on April 21, 2014
As reported in this AP article, headlined "Oklahoma Court Stays Executions of 2 Inmates," a lack of transparency about execution drugs has prompted court action in the Sooner state. Here are the basics: A sharply divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on...


Gov Chris Christie talking up drug sentencing reform as a pro-life commitment

Posted on April 20, 2014
As reported via this entry at Mediate, last week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie connected drug sentencing reform to another social issue frequently stressed by Republican officials and politicians. Here are the interesting details: New Jersey Gov...


"WWJD? Reform Alabama's horrible criminal sentencing laws"

Posted on April 20, 2014
The title of this post is the headline given to this provocative commentary authored by Sue Bell Cobb, a retired Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice. Here are excerpts: As the former Chief Justice of Alabama, I am proud to have...


A few headline highlights concerning those celebrating different high holy day

Posted on April 20, 2014
A busy holiday weekend and balky blog software precluded me from making much of the strange tradition of making 4/20 a special day on the calendar for marijuana fans. But with the mainstream media so interested in this matter this...


"Blackstone's Curse: The Fall of the Criminal, Civil, and Grand Juries and the Rise of the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary, and the States"

Posted on April 19, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this notable new article by Suja Thomas now available via SSRN which should be of special interest to fans of juries. Here is the abstract: When we watch television and movies,...


Effort to repeal death penalty in New Hampshire falls one vote short

Posted on April 18, 2014
As reported in this New York Times piece, headlined "Measure to Repeal Death Penalty Fails by a Single Vote in New Hampshire Senate," a tie vote yesterday in the Granite State will keep the death penalty alive there for now....


Should Prez Obama create a "Presidential Commission on Mass Incarceration"? Who should be on it?

Posted on April 18, 2014
The questions in the title of this post are prompted by one of the executive actions suggested earlier this week the Brennan Center for Justice in this new report titled "15 Executive Actions to Overcome Government Dysfunction." Notably, as listed...


Big new empirical analysis of federal prosecutorial charging practices

Posted on April 17, 2014
I just learned about an important NIJ-funded project and report through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service which examines in depth federal prosecutorial charging decisions across US District Courts. The research was complete by Brian Johnson of the University of...


"Culpability and Modern Crime"

Posted on April 17, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this intriguing new paper by Samuel Buell now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract: Criminal law has developed to prohibit new forms of intrusion on the autonomy and mental processes...


Denver reporting notable 2014 crime reduction since legal pot sales started

Posted on April 16, 2014
As this MSNBC article highlights, new data from Denver shows a notable decrease in crime over the first quarter of 2014. Here are the encouraging details: Three months after Colorado residents legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Amendment 64...


"Let the Burden Fit the Crime: Extending Proportionality Review to Sex Offenders"

Posted on April 16, 2014
The title of this post is the title of this paper by Erin Lynn Miller, which I just noticed via SSRN. Here is the abstract: Under current due process doctrine, punitive damages awards against civil defendants are reviewed for "proportionality"...


Critical reflections on the Cantu commutation ... aka why some federal prosecutors perhaps deserve to be demonized

Posted on April 16, 2014
The more I reflect on the typo-correction sentence commutation of federal prisoner Cesar Huerta Cantu (basics here), and especially after re-reading this 2255 dismissal order that followed Cantu's own effort to have a court fix its own significant sentencing error,...


Another sign of the modern sentencing times: notable sponsor for "How the Criminal Justice System Impacts Well-Being"

Posted on April 16, 2014
I am pleased to note a notable event taking place in Texas this evening under the banner "Rule of Law: How the Criminal Justice System Impacts Well-Being." Here is a description of the event, with its notable chief sponsor (and...


Another bizarre, sad and fatal case of reefer madness?

Posted on April 16, 2014
As reported in this prior post, a Denver coroner report concluded that a young man fell to his death in March after eating marijuana cookies which may have caused him to act erratically. Now, as reported in this local article,...


Notable comments by AG Holder about marijuana legalization in the states

Posted on April 15, 2014
This notable new Huffington Post article, headlined "Eric Holder 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Marijuana Legalization," reports on notable new interview with the AG discussing his latest view onf marijuana reform. Here are excertps: Attorney General Eric Holder is "cautiously optimistic" about...


"Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths"

Posted on April 15, 2014
The title of this post is the headline of this New York Times op-ed published yesterday. Authored by Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno, here is how it starts: Facing a critical shortage of lethal injection drugs, prison officials in a...


Prez Obama commutes 15-year sentence for marijuana offender down to 11.5 years

Posted on April 15, 2014
If NYU Law builds it, the President's counsel will come ... and, it seems, the President will act! With apologies for the bad "Field of Dreams" reference, I am not sure how else to react to the news I have...


NY Times editorial laments "Echoes of the Superpredator"

Posted on April 15, 2014
While traveling, I missed this recent New York Times editorial discussing the persistence of tough juve sentencing laws after superpredator fears have receded. Here are excerpts: News reports ? usually featuring images of glowering black teenagers ? warned of the...


Would embrace of "judicial corporal punishment" help remedy mass incarceration?

Posted on April 14, 2014
The question in the title of this post is prompted by this provocative new commentary by John Dewar Gleissner and given the headline "Who is biased against prison and sentencing reform?". Here are excerpts: Private prison companies and the guards?...


Two notable circuit discussions of federal consequences of child porn production

Posted on April 14, 2014
I have just come across two notable circuit opinion dealing with the criminal and civil consequences child porn production. One was handed down late last week by the Fourth Circuit, US v. Cobler, No. 13-4170 (4th Cir. April 11, 2014)...


House Judiciary Chair suggests Smarter Sentencing Act still facing uphill battle on the Hill

Posted on April 14, 2014
CQ News has this important new article on federal sentencing reform developments in Congress under the headline "Goodlatte: Don't 'Jump to Conclusions' on Mandatory Minimums." Here are excerpts: House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., is not convinced that Congress...


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