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Judges to use discretion – not checklists – when imposing sentences, 7th Circuit rules

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A defendant’s contention that the District Court should have considered all the mitigating factors during his sentencing was characterized by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as turning sentencing discussions into “checklist exercises.”

Larry Hodge pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 115 years for multiple child pornography offenses by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Evansville Division. During his sentencing hearing, Hodge offered testimony of a psychiatrist who asserted Hodge’s criminal actions could be linked to the sexual abuse he suffered as a child and that he was unlikely to reoffend.

One month after being sentenced, Hodge appealed. He argued the District Court committed a procedural error because it did not comment on the psychiatrist’s conclusions about Hodge’s premature sexualization and potential for rehabilitation.

However, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. In United States of America v. Larry F. Hodge, 12-2458, it affirmed the sentence.

The 7th Circuit held the District Court met the standard of addressing the principal, nonfrivolous arguments in mitigation. The lower court concluded the most noteworthy aspects of the psychiatrist’s testimony for mitigation purposes were his statements regarding Hodge’s pornography addiction, childhood abuse and exposure to pornography at a young age. The decision not discuss other findings of the psychiatrist did not constitute a procedural error.

“Hodge’s favored approach would turn sentencing courts’ discussions of the (U.S.C.) 3553(a) factors into checklist exercises, depriving judges of their discretion in sifting through large amounts of evidence to determine which items are most relevant,” Judge John Tinder wrote for the court.  
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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