Thursday, February 12, 2015

Should jurors have a say in sentencing defendants?

I think the answer should definitely be yes. Check out what this federal judge did. I love it:
A federal judge in Cleveland sentenced a Dalton man convicted of child pornography charges Tuesday to five years in prison, a move that frustrated prosecutors who pushed for four times that length based, at least in part, on a recommendation from the U.S. probation office.

A jury convicted Ryan Collins in October of one count possessing, distributing and receiving child pornography and one count possession of child pornography. Police found more than 1,500 files on his computer, and he was charged with distributing because he used peer-to-peer file sharing programs.

Under federal law, a judge can sentence a defendant to up to 20 years in prison if he or she is found guilty of child porn distribution. On Tuesday, during Collins' sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan asked U.S. District Judge James Gwin to give the maximum sentence for the charge.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Probation and Pretrial Services said a guideline sentence for Collins, who is 32 and has no criminal history, would be between about 21 and 27 years in federal prison. While higher than the maximum sentence, the office's calculation accounted for several factors in Collins' case -- including the age of the victims and not taking responsibility for his actions.

But Gwin handed down a five-year sentence to Collins, the minimum allowable sentence for a distribution charge.

The judge said that after Collins' trial, he polled jurors on what they thought was an appropriate sentence. The average recommendation was 14 months, Gwin said.

In addition to citing the juror's various jobs and where they lived, Gwin said the poll "does reflect how off the mark the federal sentencing guidelines are." He later added that the case was not worse than most of the child pornography cases that he sees and that five years "is a significant sentence, especially for somebody who has not offended in the past."

Sullivan objected to the sentence, saying it is based on an "impermissible" survey. He also argued before the sentence was issued that 20 years was justified because prosecutors did not show the jury each one of the images found on Collins' computer.

Why not find out what jurors think of what a reasonable sentence is?


Anonymous said...

except in Texas

Bob Becerra said...

Juries in the State of Florida make sentence recommendations in Capital cases. There is probably no good reason not to have them do so in non-capital ones, except that it may be time consuming.

Anonymous said...

Here's a problem...juries tend to convict black defendants more than white defendants. Would jury recommendations for sentencing also reflect that?

Anonymous said...

Do you have a cite for the proposition that juries convict African-Americans more often than whites?

Barnett Woolums said...

Some strange things happen in jury rooms. Do we really want this as a standard practice? It would be interesting to see the sentencing differences overall and based on demographics.

Anonymous said...

Sullivan "also argued before the sentence was issued that 20 years was justified because prosecutors did not show the jury each one of the images found on Collins' computer."

I'm sure the prosecutors didn't spend hours picking out the most egregious images in order to inflame the jury. What a douche.

Anonymous said...

I sat on a jury, the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT!