7th Circuit upholds precedent but asks for further guidance from U.S. Sentencing Commission

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Although a gun buyer had his sentence affirmed, his argument for reduced time has caused the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to call upon the Sentencing Commission to clarify a section of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The case, United States of America v. Tristan Davis, 12-3552, was appealed from the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Davis pleaded guilty to two counts of lying to gun dealers and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. His offense level, and possibly his sentence, would have been lower if the District judge had given him a three-level reduction for accepting responsibility by pleading guilty. However, the prosecutor declined to move for the subtraction of a third level under U.S.S.G. 3E1.1(b) because Davis refused to waive his right to appeal.  

Davis contended that a motion from the prosecutor is mandatory whenever the defendant pleads guilty early enough and spares the prosecutor the burden of trial preparation.

In United States v. Deberry, 576 F.3d 708 (7th Cir. 2009), the court rejected that 3E1.1(b) requires a prosecutor to file a motion, noting the statute confers an entitlement on the prosecutor, not on the defendant.

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, in his opinion for Davis, noted the courts of appeals are divided on this issue. While a majority has reached the same conclusion as Deberry, two have sided with Davis’s contention that a court may direct the prosecutor to file a motion even if the prosecutor’s reason for withholding that motion does not violate the Constitution.

“This circuit could not eliminate the conflict by changing sides, so stare decisis supports standing pat,” Easterbrook wrote. “Resolution of this conflict is the province of the Supreme Court or the Sentencing Commission.”

Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote a concurring opinion, also calling upon the Sentencing Commission to give further guidance.

However, she explained she does not believe that section 3E1.1(b) permits the government to insist that a defendant waive his appellate rights before it will ask the court to grant him an addition one-level decrease in his offense level for acceptance of responsibility.

Rovner noted sentencing judges can err when imposing sentences and these errors are rarely attributable to the defendant. Consequently, the defendant has a right to be sentenced accurately and fairly. Nothing in section 3E1.1(b), she continued, requires the defendant to accept responsibility for the court’s errors as well as his own.



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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.