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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. Oh, the name calling was not name calling, it was merely social commentary making this point, which is on the minds of many, as an aside to the article's focus: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111082327AAmlmMa Or, if you prefer a local angle, I give you exhibit A in that analysis of viva la difference: http://fox59.com/2015/03/16/moed-appears-on-house-floor-says-hes-not-resigning/

  2. Too many attorneys take their position as a license to intimidate and threaten non attorneys in person and by mail. Did find it ironic that a reader moved to comment twice on this article could not complete a paragraph without resorting to insulting name calling (rethuglican) as a substitute for reasoned discussion. Some people will never get the point this action should have made.

  3. People have heard of Magna Carta, and not the Provisions of Oxford & Westminster. Not that anybody really cares. Today, it might be considered ethnic or racial bias to talk about the "Anglo Saxon common law." I don't even see the word English in the blurb above. Anyhow speaking of Edward I-- he was famously intolerant of diversity himself viz the Edict of Expulsion 1290. So all he did too like making parliament a permanent institution-- that all must be discredited. 100 years from now such commemorations will be in the dustbin of history.

  4. Oops, I meant discipline, not disciple. Interesting that those words share such a close relationship. We attorneys are to be disciples of the law, being disciplined to serve the law and its source, the constitutions. Do that, and the goals of Magna Carta are advanced. Do that not and Magna Carta is usurped. Do that not and you should be disciplined. Do that and you should be counted a good disciple. My experiences, once again, do not reveal a process that is adhering to the due process ideals of Magna Carta. Just the opposite, in fact. Braveheart's dying rebel (for a great cause) yell comes to mind.

  5. It is not a sign of the times that many Ind licensed attorneys (I am not) would fear writing what I wrote below, even if they had experiences to back it up. Let's take a minute to thank God for the brave Baron's who risked death by torture to tell the government that it was in the wrong. Today is a career ruination that whistleblowers risk. That is often brought on by denial of licenses or disciple for those who dare speak truth to power. Magna Carta says truth rules power, power too often claims that truth matters not, only Power. Fight such power for the good of our constitutional republics. If we lose them we have only bureaucratic tyranny to pass onto our children. Government attorneys, of all lawyers, should best realize this and work to see our patrimony preserved. I am now a government attorney (once again) in Kansas, and respecting the rule of law is my passion, first and foremost.

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