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Plea agreement bars defendant from appealing sentence

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A defendant who agreed to waive his right to appeal his sentence after pleading guilty to a drug offense was unable to convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that he should be allowed to pursue his ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Garrett Smith pleaded guilty to possessing with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. As part of his plea agreement – which he signed and told the judge he understood – Smith waived his right to appeal his sentence on any ground, unless the appeal dealt with ineffective assistance of counsel relating to the waiver or its negotiation.

At the sentencing hearing, Smith objected to the presentence report’s finding that he qualifies as a career offender because of a prior drug conviction and state court conviction of reckless homicide. The judge asked for both sides to address Smith’s objection and reset the sentencing hearing for two weeks later. That’s when the judge sentenced Smith to 168 months in light of his cooperation, which was lower than the advisory sentencing range based on Smith’s status as a career offender.

Smith now appeals his sentence on the basis that he is not a career offender. He argued the conviction for reckless homicide doesn’t qualify as a crime of violence for purposes of the career offender guideline, so he’s entitled to a shorter sentence.

“Smith instead urges us to recognize a new exception for the ‘patent’ ineffectiveness of counsel at sentencing. In his view, it should have been obvious to Smith’s counsel below that reckless homicide does not qualify as a crime of violence, and given the significant impact of the career offender determination of Smith’s sentencing range, his counsel was not merely ineffective, but patently so, in neglecting to challenge it. On that basis, he urges us not to enforce the waiver,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote.

“We can find no support in the language of the plea agreement or in our cases for such an exception.”

No matter how clear a sentencing error the defendant believes the District Court may have committed or however obvious an error he believe his counsel committed in not objecting to the court’s sentencing decision, when the defendant has knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to appeal such errors, the obviousness of the error does not support overlooking the waiver, the 7th Circuit ruled in United States of America v. Garrett Davarrass Smith, 12-3350.
 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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