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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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  2. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  3. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

  4. I've been denied I appeal court date took a year my court date was Nov 9,2016 and have not received a answer yet

  5. Warsaw indiana dcs lying on our case. We already proved that in our first and most recent court appearance i need people to contact me who have evidence of dcs malpractice please email or facebook nathaniel hollett thank you

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