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 think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.