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March 25, 2014

Sentencing submissions in US v. Graham: YOU BE THE SENTENCING JUDGE (and/or predict what the real judges will do)

As promised, here are links to the sentencing submission in US v. Graham (D. Montana):

As I mentioned in class, I am VERY interest in having students review these submissions and then comment/opine about (1) what sentence they would give if the sentencing judges in this case, and/or (2) what sentence they predict the actual federal sentencing judge will give on Thursday at the actual sentencing.

For anyone who makes a judgment/prediction that is spot on, I will reward with a special surprise prize.

UPDATE: Outcome is detailed over at SL&P: Remorseless killer bride gets sentenced to 30+ years in federal prison

March 25, 2014 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Interesting new cases | Permalink

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While I haven't had a chance to review the sentencing memorandums in their entirety, in case anyone was interested, Graham's counsel filed Tuesday a motion to withdraw her guilty plea arguing the prosecutors breached the plea agreement.

http://missoulian.com/news/local/jordan-graham-newlywed-asks-to-withdraw-guilty-plea-in-husband/article_f0171c70-b481-11e3-b488-001a4bcf887a.html

Posted by: Jessica W. | Mar 26, 2014 10:31:31 AM

I had previously posted but it does not appear to have posted so I apologize if this post appears twice.
I would find that she should in fact receive the two level bump for both using a minor and obstruction of justice. Her argument- that she did not really affect the police investigation is one which I think a court may buy, but I do not. I also feel that it is clear that she used a minor in the process and therefore I have sentenced her at 340 months. It may seem to be harsh, but in reviewing the fact pattern I found that he in fact was pushed "face first" onto the ground and therefore it would appear to me that she pushed him from behind and thus he was not really reaching at her as she claimed. I did not give her the max within the the sentencing structure because I feel that there are in fact worse types of 2nd degree murder. This was a very quick push, and thus she did not have to use continued force as she would have had to use in a choking or something like that. I also was not easy on her because it would have taken significant force to shove him off of the cliff(in comparing her size with his it is easy to see that he likely was looking over the cliff and she shoved him off while he was off balance. I find it hard to believe that he was in a balanced attacking position and she could push with the force to get him off of the ledge.

I feel the court will likely give around 200 months. I think the the court will give the bump up for the involvement of a minor, but I think the court will be convinced of the argument that she did not really hinder the investigation because the authorities were not really buying what she was selling and continued to push her and investigate the inconsistencies in her story. I would chalk that up to good police work, but I feel a court will likely see it as a distrust in the witness.

Posted by: Chris LaRocco(OSU Student) | Mar 26, 2014 11:32:38 AM

It is my prediction that, today at sentencing, the federal judge will sentence the defendant to 15 years in prison. This prediction was reached by considering both the real offense and the charge offense. The defendant was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the prosecution accepted a guilty plea for second-degree murder, an offense with a guideline suggestion of about 20-25 years. However, it is both my hope and my prediction that the sentencing judge will recognize and consider the “real” offense: voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter has a statutory maximum sentence of fifteen years.

The facts of the case at hand suggest that, while the act was intentional, the defendant lacked the requisite mens rea to be charged with second-degree murder. Defense concedes that the defendant acted extremely recklessly when shoving her husband off the cliff in a fit of rage; however, the act was neither intentional nor premeditated. While prosecution will argue that she should be sentenced to life without parole for second-degree murder in conjunction with aggravating circumstances (obstructing justice and involving a minor), the defendant ultimately accepted responsibility for the crime by pleading guilty, which is a mitigating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

Today, the judge should opt for a 15-year sentence, a happy compromise for defense and prosecution. This sentence will recognize both the seriousness and reality of the crime without “going overboard” (sorry - bad pun).

Posted by: Julie Keys | Mar 27, 2014 12:01:04 PM

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