Although many things about this case are troubling, perhaps most worrisome is that Mr. Hernandez might never have received this sentence if he had been sentenced in another part of the country. The Sentencing Commission also reported to Congress that the practice of "stacking" § 924(c) charges happens in very few districts. The Commission's data showed "no evidence that those offenses occur more frequently in those districts than in others." Id at 361. The Sentencing Commission thus concluded that "this geographic concentration is attributable to inconsistences in the charging of multiple violations of § 924(c)." Id. at 361-62. As it happens, the Southern District of Florida, where Mr. Hernandez was sentenced, is one of the districts recognized as exceptionally prolific in charging § 924(c) crimes. In fiscal year 2010, at least one in thirty-five of our entire nation's § 924(c) sentences came from the Southern District of Florida. Id at 276. The Southern District of Florida was one of only twelve districts in the country that reported having over 50 of these cases that year. Id. For the same period, 38 districts reported having ten or fewer. Id.Another local practice that may come under fire in the near future is the shackling of all defendants in magistrate court. The 9th Circuit just found the practice unconstitutional, which is in direct conflict with the 11th Circuit. The Supreme Court may get the issue, but it's hard to disagree with the 9th's conclusion:
We must treat people with respect and dignity even though they are suspected of a crime. * * * The Constitution enshrines a fundamental right to be free of unwarranted restraints. Thus, we hold that if the government seeks to shackle a defendant, it must first justify the infringement with specific security needs as to that particular defendant. Courts must decide whether the stated need for security outweighs the infringement on a defendant’s right. This decision cannot be deferred to security providers or presumptively answered by routine policies. All of these requirements apply regardless of a jury’s presence or whether it’s a pretrial, trial or sentencing proceeding. Criminal defendants, like any other party appearing in court, are entitled to enter the courtroom with their heads held high. The policy that defendants challenged here isn’t presently in effect. Thus, although we hold that policy to be unconstitutional, we withhold the issuance of a formal writ of mandamus at this time.