The bottom line is this:
- To sentence a defendant, the district court must: (1) properly calculate the Guideline sentencing range; (2) determine whether a sentence "within that range and within statutory limits serves the factors set forth in [18 USC] 3553(a) and, if not, select a sentence that does serve those factors; (3) implement the mandatory statutory limitations; and (4) articulate the reasons for selecting the particular sentence, especially explaining why a non-Guideline sentence is appropriate.
- The Fourth Circuit joins several others (see Doug Berman's discussion here) in holding that a sentence within the advisory Guideline range is "presumptively reasonable." That doesn't mean that a non-Guideline sentence is therefore "ipso facto unreasonable."
- A sentence will be unreasonable if it is (a) within the advisory Guideline range but there was an error in applying or construing the Guidelines, or (b) if the sentence is imposed outside of the Guideline range "and the district court provides an inadequate statement of reasons or relies on improper factors in departing from the Guidelines' recommendation."
- Finally, when reviewing an outside the Guidelines sentence to determine "whether a sentence . . . serves the purpose of sentence established by Congress in [18 USC 3553(a), 28 USC 991 (a), and 28 USC 994], we defer to the district court's sentencing judgments, correcting only for an abuse of discretion.
The Fourth Circuit vacated that sentence, finding it unreasonable because it was based on an improper application of the Guidelines. Specifically, the court found that the district court erred in several ways to conclude that the Career Offender label did not fit Green. The court did not reach the issue of whether an 87-month sentence was reasonable under the 3553(a) factors or whether a sentence within the Career Offender-fueled Guideline range would have been reasonable.
Doug Bermans's thoughts on Green can be read here.