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Federal court addresses resentencing issue

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A federal appellate court’s general remand for resentencing doesn’t necessarily mean a defendant will receive a lesser penalty or be able to introduce new arguments, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Issuing a 23-page opinion in United States of America v. Marlyn J. Barnes and Melvin B. Taylor, Nos. 11-1261, 11-1602, the federal Circuit panel tackled an issue that few courts have yet addressed since a key ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States came down in March.

In this case from the Northern District of Indiana, the appellate court examined a case that was before it for a second time after a panel in 2010 remanded for resentencing. The government in 2006 had indicted and charged Marlyn Barnes, Melvin Taylor and others with conspiring to possess and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Barnes and Taylor were also charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. The two defendants in this case were the only two who proceeded to trial, and in separate trials, a jury convicted them on both counts. Barnes received a 292-month sentence with enhancements while Taylor received a 188-month sentence, and both appealed.

On first appeal, the 7th Circuit vacated those sentences and remanded because the judges found inconsistent facts that didn’t justify the sentences, and that the penalties appeared to be disparate when compared to the other co-conspirators.

At resentencing, Judge Theresa Springmann waived several new arguments that Barnes tried to raise and found he should have raised them during his first appeal. She factored in evidence that had been submitted post-trial and again sentenced him to 292 months. For Taylor, the judge resentenced him to 188 months as before after dismissing as waived the new arguments he tried to raise.

Both appealed, arguing that they were entitled to the District Court’s consideration of any and all arguments they might raise on resentencing. Specifically, they argued the SCOTUS ruling from March in Pepper v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 1229 (2011), required this because any appellate court’s general remand erases the original sentencing proceeding and any issues of waiver.

The 7th Circuit disagreed, and found the District judge’s revised sentences remained within the guidelines and are proper.

“We conclude that, upon a general remand for re-sentencing, a district court may permit new arguments and evidence as it deems necessary to re-fashion its sentence,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote for a panel that included Judges Michael Kanne and David Hamilton. “General remand does not, however, entitle the defendants to present new arguments and evidence beyond that pertinent to the issues raised on appeal. Allowing a district court to freely balance already and properly raised arguments to preserve or revise its sentencing objectives does not equate to carte blanche for defendants to raise new arguments unrelated to the issues raised on appeal.”

The judges noted that the SCOTUS hasn’t yet defined the scope of its Pepper holding and that no court has concluded Pepper operates to abolish waiver in the context of resentencing. They didn’t address the question of whether a District court must consider post-sentencing rehabilitation on a general remand, and left that for another day.
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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