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February 26, 2018

Interesting accounting of federal bank robbery sentencing (and parole) in pre-guidelines era

Starting with Wednesday's class, we will start unpacking the sentencing of Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I welcome comments to this prior post if/when you want to discuss your experiences with guideline sentencing.  This post, however, is meant to wrap up our pre-guideline sentencing experiences with the help of this interesting 1986 US Government Accounting Office report reviewing the "median sentences imposed and median time served for 609 offenders convicted of armed and unarmed bank robbery who were confined in the Federal Prison System as of June 30, 1983, and on whom release decisions had been made by the Parole Commission."

I think folks find might the whole US GAO report interesting, but I will provide this imperfect summary:

Usefully, the short report also notes that the US Parole Commission had "established parole release guidelines as required by law which indicate the customary range of time to be served by offenders before release from prison." These parole guidelines had two parts, "offense severity and parole prognosis": the severity of the offense was "broken down into eight categories" and the parole prognosis score ranging "from 0 to 10."  These Parole Commission guidelines served as a partial template for the work of the original US Sentencing Commission creating the original US Sentencing Guidelines (especially its criminal history categories).

In addition to giving you another perspective on the range of sentencing outcomes for the likes of Rob Anon, this report serves as another reminder of just how practically consequential the abolition of parole was as a feature of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.  We will discuss that reality and other parts of the SRA starting Wednesday. 

February 26, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 25, 2018

Exploring federal sentencing realities for some local federal appellants

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. Continuing a series of posts providing suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3, below are some links to some Sixth Circuit opinions all from the first two months of 2018 in cases in which a federal defendant appealed some aspect of his federal sentencing.

As we will discuss in class, before modern guideline reforms, appeals of federal sentences were very rare and very rarely successful. Now, as you can see from the list below, federal sentencing appeals are quite common (and you will have to click through to get a sense for how often successful):

United States v. Terrance Ford and Brian Williams (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 120 months and 180 months, respectively)

United States v. Richard Thornton and Keenan Crane and David Tatum (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 136 months, 80 months, and 66 months, respectively).

United States v. Bernardo Santana (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 180 months)

United States v. Michael Ferguson (firearm offenses resulting in imprisonment for 105 months)

United States v. Kenneth Jozwiak (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 51 months)

United States v. Anthony Sanders (drug offenses resulting in imprisonment for 60 months)

United States v. John Benchick (fraud offenses resulting in imprisonment for 110 months)

United States v. Malcolm Roberson (firearm offenses resulting in imprisonment for 41 months)

United States v. Arthur Charles Smith (armed robbery offenses resulting in imprisonment for 262 month)

United States v. James Cortelyou (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 157 months)

United States v. Timothy Vallier (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 264 months)

United States v. Donald Allen (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 300 months)

United States v. Velasquez Curuchiche (sex offenses resulting in imprisonment for 600 months)

February 25, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Mini-papers | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 24, 2018

Some hints and help for sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines

As stressed in class last week, the next two weeks are going to involve detailed discussions of federal sentencing policies and practice before and after modern guideline reforms. 

We will begin on Monday with a deep discussion of the sentencing realities faced in sentencing Rob Anon in a pre-guideline world (the world Judge Marvin Frankel criticizes in the excerpt in our text which you should read and re-read).  In addition to imagining how you, as a judge, would sentence Rob Anon in this world, think also about how prosecutors and defense attorneys would approach sentencing in a pre-guideline world. 

We will then turn to sentencing Rob Anon under the modern federal sentencing guidelines.  I highly encourage class members to try to figure out how to identify and assess federal guideline sentencing laws relevant to Rob Anon with just the help of on-line search materials or traditional legal research resources (and feel free to use the comments to express frustration).  Consider that a federal defendant or a novice lawyer taking on his or her first federal criminal case will not likely have access to any perfect guide (or even "Guidelines for Dummies") to enable ready understanding of the federal sentencing guidelines.

If and when you would like some basic guideline sentencing help, you can turn to these links which take you to key guideline provisions for Rob Anon appearing in the "official" on-line version of the now-applicable US Sentencing Guidelines as provided on the US Sentencing Commission's website:

I highly encourage class members to start working through these "basic" federal guideline sentencing materials on their own (again feeling free to use the comments to express frustration) before looking for any more sentencing help.  That said, if (when?) you want or need even more help, here is a link to a worksheet created by the US Sentencing Commission intended to aid in the guideline sentencing process:

As you work through this assignment, give particular thought to the array of challenges that modern federal sentencing law may present for modern federal sentencing lawyers.   If you want to think particularly about the import and impact of sentencing law for the work of defense attorneys, perhaps check out this article I wrote some years ago seeking to highlight "the array of challenges that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines create for defense counsel."

February 24, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 21, 2018

If you really want to get into Eastern State Penitentiary and other (in)famous US prisons past and present....

then this post can help facilitate discussion and reflection on prison history in the United States, building on the video about Eastern State Penitentiary and the modern reality that time in jail or prisons is now our default punishment for crimes both major and minor.  If you are interested in learning more about Eastern State, check out this terrific website.   Notably, the Eastern State Penitentiary has this new exhibit on "Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration."  And that includes this little survey: "What are Prisons For? Take the quiz."

In addition, there are lots of other (in)famous prisons that tell stories about not only American crime and punishment, but also stories about America.  Some Ohio-centric stories are to be found within in this history, as documented via this book entitled "Central Ohio's Historic Prisons."  That book is summarized this way:

With the opening of the Ohio State Reformatory in 1896, the state legislature had put in place "the most complete prison system, in theory, which exists in the United States."  The reformatory joined the Ohio Penitentiary and the Boys Industrial School, also central-Ohio institutions, to form the first instance of "graded prisons; with the reform farm on one side of the new prison, for juvenile offenders, and the penitentiary on the other, for all the more hardened and incorrigible class."  However, even as the concept was being replicated throughout the country, the staffs of the institutions were faced with the day-to-day struggle of actually making the system work.

The Ohio State Reformatory referenced in this passage is located in Mansfield, and is now an historic site.   I urge everyone to take a virtual tour via this huge photo gallery.  And if you are ever looking for some web-surfing fun, check out these additional links to some good sites about some of the United States' most (in)famous prisons:

Notably, a few years ago, students had a lot to say in the wake of watching the ESP video, and you might be interested to read these 2011 student comments about prison history. This coming week, we will be shifting back into a discussion of sentencing law and the (non-capital) sentencing process, but everyone should keep thinking about both the theory and practices of imprisonment as a form of punishment as we get into the nitty-gritty of modern sentencing doctrines.

February 21, 2018 in Alternatives to imprisonment, Scope of imprisonment, Theories of punishment | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2018

Unearthing federal sentencing realities for some celebrity federal defendants

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. Continuing a series of posts providing a suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3, here are some links to posts from my main blog from the last few years about "famous" or high-profile offenders whose federal sentencing stories you might find engaging:

Rene Boucher (that guy who attacked Senator Rand Paul)

Michael Flynn

Jared Fogle

Dennis Hastert (former speaker of the US House)

Abby Lee Miller (star of Dance Moms)

Larry Nasser

Sholom Rubashkin (rabbi who receive commutation from Prez Trump)

Sheldon Silver (former speaker of New York Assembly)

Martin Shkreli (that Pharmo Bro guy)

Michael Slager

Kevin Trudeau (infamous infomercial star)

Ross Ulbricht (creator of Silk Road website)

Anthony Weiner

February 20, 2018 in Class activities, Course requirements, Guideline sentencing systems | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2018

Unearthing federal sentencing realities under federal defendants now before SCOTUS

As mentioned in class, mini-paper #3 provides you an opportunity to explore federal sentencing realities surrounding a federal defendant of your choice. In a series of posts, I will be providing a series of suggestions about possible federal defendants you might consider examining for mini-paper #3.

In this post, for example, I thought it worth highlighting federal defendants whose cases are currently before the Supreme Court.  Sentencing issues are the focal point for SCOTUS in some of these cases, but other matters concern SCOTUS for the first five cases listed below.  Below I have provided links to SCOTUSblog materials on cases involving federal criminal defendants now pending before the Justices, along with the sentences the defendants received according to the briefs of the US Solicitor General:

Class v. United States ("sentenced to 24 days of imprisonment, to be followed by 12 months of supervised release")

Carpenter v. United States ("sentenced ... to 1395 months in prison")

Marinello v. United States ("sentenced ... to 36 months of imprisonment, to be followed by one year of supervised release")

Byrd v. United States ("sentenced to 120 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release")

Dahda v. United States ("sentenced to 189 months of imprisonment, to be followed by ten years of supervised release")


Lagos v. United States ("sentenced petitioner to 97 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered $15,970,517 in restitution")

Rosales-Mireles v. United States ("sentenced ... to 78 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release")

Hughes v. United States ("sentenced to 180 months of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release")

Koons v. United States ("sentenced ... to 180 months in prison, to be followed by ten years of supervised release")

Chavez-Meza v. United States ("sentenced to 135 months of imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release")

February 18, 2018 in Class activities, Guideline sentencing systems, Mini-papers, Supreme Court rulings | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2018

A county-specific look at the death penalty in Ohio ... and wondering if anyone is taking a country-specific look at LWOP

I just noticed this lengthy new article from the Cincinnati Enquirer headlined "Why is a murder trial here so much more likely to end with a death sentence?".  I recommend the piece in full, and here is some of the "who" coverage:  

Hamilton County has sent more people to death row and is responsible for more executions than any county in Ohio since capital punishment returned to the state in 1981. The county has a larger death row population per capita than the home counties of Los Angeles, Miami or San Diego. And it has more people on death row than all but 21 of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States....

“There’s no question Hamilton County is and definitely was a conservative county,” said Andrew Welsh-Huggins, the author of “No Winners Here Tonight,” a book about capital punishment in Ohio. “A conservative county is going to elect conservative prosecutors, and they’re going to take their cues from that,” he said....

No politician in town is more closely identified with the death penalty than Joe Deters, the latest in a long line of Hamilton County prosecutors who have regularly sought capital murder charges.

Deters said he tries to answer the same questions before every murder trial: Is the accused eligible for the death penalty under Ohio law? Does he have the evidence to remove all doubt of innocence? Was the offense so terrible the defendant deserves to die?

If the answer is yes on all counts, he seeks a death sentence. Not because he relishes the thought of an execution, Deters said, but because that’s what the law dictates. “People in really bad cases want the death penalty,” he said. “There are certain cases that are so hideous they are just evil.”...

Victims’ relatives often feel [killers deserve to die], but it’s up to the prosecutor to decide how aggressively to pursue the ultimate punishment. Deters said he has, in some cases, sought the death penalty even when relatives asked him not to, because the law and the facts of the case demanded it.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the approach of local prosecutors is the single biggest factor in whether a convicted killer ends up on death row. In some places, he said, “the death penalty appears to be part of the culture.”

An Enquirer analysis of data from Dunham’s group found Hamilton County's death row population ranks 22nd out of the 647 counties nationwide that have at least one person on death row. Among U.S. counties with 20 or more inmates on death row, Hamilton County ranks seventh per capita.

What’s happened here over the years is part of a broader trend that has seen death penalty cases become highly concentrated. Less than 1 percent of U.S. counties now account for 40 percent of all death row inmates.

One reason for that disparity is the growing number of states, now 19, that have banned the death penalty. Another is the uneven application of death penalty laws by the prosecutors elected to enforce them. A county with a strong death penalty proponent, such as Deters, might send killers like Tibbetts or Van Hook to death row, while a prosecutor in another county might be content to seek life without parole, or less.

Franklin County, about 100 miles to the north, has a larger population and more homicides than Hamilton County, but less than half as many inmates on death row with 11. Cuyahoga County, also more populous and more violent than Hamilton County, has 21 death row inmates. “The law is prosecuted differently depending on who is the elected prosecutor,” said Welsh-Huggins. “Your chances of going to death row depend on where you committed the crime.”

Geography will continue to matter for years to come in death penalty cases, and not just close to home in Ohio. Death rows in Texas and the Deep South remain crowded places, while those in the Northeast are smaller or nonexistent....

Hamilton County has seen a decline in death sentences, too, as jurors increasingly recommend sentences of life without parole instead of death. The option, which eliminates the risk of a killer one day walking free, has fundamentally changed the calculus of capital trials. "That has impacted death sentences across the country," said Abe Bonowitz, spokesman for Ohioans to Stop Executions. "If you can guarantee the guy is never getting out, why do you have to kill him?"

Sometimes, though, juries and judges still find a reason. Ohio's life without parole law didn't exist when Van Hook was convicted in 1985, but it was on the books when Tibbetts went on trial in 1998. His Hamilton County jury recommended the death penalty anyway.

Deters said that’s fine with him. He said he can't worry about what other prosecutors do or whether Hamilton County is sending more people to death row than other counties. He said the solution for those who do worry about it is simple. “If people don’t want the death penalty, I don’t care,” Deters said. “Pass a law and get rid of it.”

For a lot more information about executions by county, here is a lot of information from the Death Penalty Information Center.  And for a big report on death sentences by counties, here are Part I and Part II of a big recent report titled Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Counties.  

As the title of this post highlights, in addition to encouraging you to think about all this county-by-county examination and analysis of the death penalty, I am interested in whether you can help me find any county-by-county analysis of LWOP sentences.   The "Too Broken to Fix" report notes than "in 2015, juries only returned 49 death sentences" and that only 33 counties of 3,143 counties in the US imposed the sentence. Can anyone help me find any estimate of how many total LWOP sentences were imposed in 2015 (or any other calendar year)?  Can anyone help me find any county-by-county accounting of LWOP sentence in Ohio or anywhere else?

February 15, 2018 in Data on sentencing, Death penalty history, Scope of imprisonment, Sentencing data | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2018

Reviewing categorical limits on death penalty created by US Supreme Court

Here is a list of (and links to) rulings by the Supreme Court declaring (or suggesting in the case of Tison v. Arizona) that the Eighth Amendment places substantive categorical limits on the application of the death penalty.  Can you see a common thread or theme to these rulings?



Rape: Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584 (1977)

Rape of Children: Kennedy v. Louisiana 554 U.S. 407 (2008)

Lesser Murders: Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137 (1987)



Insane: Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986)

JuvenilesThompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U. S. 815 (1988); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)

Intellectually Disabled: Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002)


If you can identify a theme to these rulings, and there additional categorical limits that should be set forth by the Supreme Court?  Suggestions have been made that felony murder (on the crime side) and mental illness (on the criminal side) should be the basis for categorical restrictions on the death penalty.

Also, as we will discuss when wrapping up the death penalty, if the Eighth Amendment places categorical limits on death sentences, should it also place some categorical limits on other extreme sentences like life without parole?  How about life with parole? 


And if you want to spend a lot more time reflecting on race and the death penalty, McClesky and its aftermath, the Fall 2012 issue of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law had a symposium focused on "McClesky at 25."  Here are links to all the articles in the symposium:

February 12, 2018 in Death penalty history, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Westerville police shooting creates not only Ohio capital punishment case, but also interesting potential federal sentencing case

We discussed in class today some of the dynamics sure to surround a possible capital prosecution of Quentin Smith, the suspect charged with killing two Westerville police officers over the weekend.  Against that backdrop, I found notable this new local article headlined "The death penalty: Is it cheaper? Why does it take so long from sentencing to execution?". Here are some other questions this article poses (click through to see the answers given):

Q: What does a death penalty indictment mean?

Q: Will the court process be different in a death penalty case?

Q: A death sentence means the case will be cheaper because the defendant dies, right?

Q: How long after a death sentence being imposed will a person be executed?

Q: Does the jury or the judge decide if a person gets a death sentence?

Also notable, and likely to become a topic for discussion later in our class, is news of a federal prosecution resulting from this shooting.  This Columbus Dispatch article, headlined "Northeast Ohio man charged with buying gun used to kill Westerville officers," provides these basics:

A Cleveland-area man was scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in Columbus Monday, charged with providing a Glock semi-automatic handgun to the convicted felon accused of killing two Westerville police officers over the weekend.

Gerald A. Lawson III, 30, of Warrensville Heights, was taken into custody by federal agents just before noon at his home and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to a release from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.  Lawson was to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly A. Jolson Monday afternoon in Columbus.

His arrest came two days after Quentin L. Smith allegedly killed veteran Westerville officers Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering, who were responding to a 911 hangup call from a Cross Wind Drive residence. A criminal complaint says Smith retrieved a handgun after officers entered the residence and shot both. Joering died at the scene; Morelli died a short time later at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center....

Investigators say Smith provided money and an extra $100 payment to Lawson to purchase the firearm and that Lawson knew that Smith was a convicted felon. A trace determined the gun was bought in Broadview Heights, a Cleveland suburb.

The two are longtime friends, with several photos of the two together posted online on one of Lawson’s social media accounts, according to a release.

At the risk of asking you to pre-judge the matter, I encourage you to think about what kind of punishment you might be inclined to impose upon Gerald A. Lawson III for illegally acquiring a gun for his friend that his friend used to kill two police officers.

February 12, 2018 in Class activities, Ohio news and commentary, Recent news and developments | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 8, 2018

Wrapping up review of capital sentencing realities with some "who" review

As mentioned in class, there are many lessons to draw from our Unibomber capital sentencing exercise, so the start of our next class will be continuing our discussion of capital sentencing laws and their application in Florida, Texas and Ohio.   One lesson we have already discussed in various ways in various settings is how many different "whos" can have an impact on the administration of sentencing systems, and I thought it might be useful to link to just a small slice of a huge body of research/commentary on various "whos" impacting capital sentences.  So:



Defense attorneys:

Trial judges:


Appellate judges:


Coincidentally, Ohio's own Gov. John Kasich provided today an interesting twist on capital sentencing "whos":

     "Ohio Gov Kasich issues reprieve days before scheduled execution so clemency process can consider new juror letter"

UPDATE:  And now another sad story of another serious crime provides another "who" example:

    "Prosecutor will seek the death penalty if Westerville shooting suspect survives"

February 8, 2018 in Death penalty history, Quality of counsel, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 5, 2018

Gearing up to represent (or prosecute) the Unibomber

As I have repeatedly mentioned in class, we will be exploring in our next few classes how Florida, Texas and Ohio capital sentencing laws help guide jury death sentencing discretion for the Unibomber (and others).  The essentials for preparation appear at pp. 252 to 257 of our text, though you also need to check out two Ohio statutory provisions via the web: 2929.03 Imposition of sentence for aggravated murder and 2929.04 Death penalty or imprisonment - aggravating and mitigating factors.

For a lot more information about "your client," here is a massive Wikipedia entry on Ted Kaczynski.  That entry has (too) many great links, though I would especially encourage checking out at least some of the Unibomber's (in)famous Manifesto, "INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY AND ITS FUTURE" as well as  this lengthy Time article by Stephen J. Dubner from 1999 about Teddy K. headlined "I Don't Want To Live Long.  I Would Rather Get The Death Penalty Than Spend The Rest Of My Life In Prison."

And if you want to have some old-school SNL fun while preparing for this discussion, these are fun to check out:

February 5, 2018 in Class activities, Death eligible offenses, Death penalty history | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 3, 2018

Gameplans for continuing capital punishment discussions

Because we have been moving (usefully) slowly through our discussion of capital constitutional history, I want to make sure everyone is sure about what I expect/hope to cover over the next few weeks:

Week of Feb 5: We will finish up a discussion of Furman/Gregg/Woodson/Roberts which help explain/define modern DP realities and we will explore how Florida, Texas and Ohio capital sentencing laws help guide jury death sentencing discretion for the Unibomber (and others).  (I will do a separate post with a lot more information about Ted Kaczynski, whom some of you will be asked to defend or prosecute). 

Week of Feb 12: We will discuss McClesky v. Kemp, paying extra special attention to the final few paragraphs of the majority opinion and then debating a possible Ohio Racial and Gender Justice Act and thereafter try to start wrapping up DP discussions and transition to LWOP/non-capital sentencing issues for constitutional courts and other actors.

February 3, 2018 in Class activities | Permalink | Comments (0)