Tuesday, August 18, 2009

DC Use of Presumption of Reasonableness Requires Resentencing

US v. Raby: Raby pleaded guilty to possession of child porn and faced a Guideline range of 210-262 months. Over the course of several sentencing hearings, during which Raby argued for a variance and the Government sang from the Guideline hymnal, the district court judge repeatedly stated that he didn't see how he could impose anything other than a Guideline sentence without getting reversed on appeal. In the end, he imposed a 210-month sentence, explaining that he wasn't at liberty to consider any of the several mitigating factors without being "unreasonable."

Years pass, as the case languishes on appeal. In the interim, the Supreme Court decides Gall and other cases that both uphold the presumption of reasonableness as an appellate review tool, but make clear that district court's cannot apply it at the initial sentencing. The Fourth Circuit, after lots of direct quotations from the numerous sentencing hearings, concluded that the district court erroneously applied the presumption at sentencing and, thus, Raby's sentence was procedurally unreasonable. His sentence was vacated and the case remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

Congrats to the defender office in the SDWV for the win!

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