Monday, March 30, 2015

Cookie cutter sentences for convenience store robbers rejected

US v. Lymas, et al.:  In this appeal, the Fourth Circuit considered procedural and substantive challenges to three 200-month sentences, ordered to three of the four co-conspirators in a convenience store robbery ring.  Each of the defendants had different criminal histories.  Each had different advisory guidelines ranges.  However, each defendant received the exact same sentence, based upon the district court’s position that the sentencing guideline under-punished the crimes.  The sentences imposed on each defendant amounted to upward variances ranging from 3 months for one, 15 months for the second, and 62 months for the third.

The Fourth Circuit determined that, except for offering its view of the seriousness of the offense that occurred in this case (i.e., robberies that in some instances involved handguns, in one case a juvenile, and some violence), the sentencing court ignored every other statutory factor, and imposed sentences purely based upon the crime rather than the individual defendants.  In imposing these sentences, according to the panel here, the district court rejected not only the Sentencing Commission’s considered judgment as to the appropriate sentence for the crimes, but also the “foundational principles of the Guidelines themselves - - proportionality in sentence, which ‘match[es] punishment with culpability’.”  While the imposition of this sentence may technically be permissible post-Booker, the Fourth Circuit determined that this sort of “wholesale rejection” of the Guidelines requires a “significantly more detailed explanation than” the district court gave here.   The Fourth Circuit vacated the sentences and remanded to the district court for resentencing.

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