Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fred Grimm on the Sentencing Guidelines

I very rarely agree with Fred Grimm, but today he criticizes the Sentencing Guidelines, and I couldn't agree more.

Grimm says:

A drama of Shakespearean magnitude was supposed to unfold in a federal courtroom, but it was reduced to numbers.

Reporters, come to learn the fate of the fallen Broward sheriff, sat mystified as the judge and lawyers abandoned English and broke into a secret numerical language. They added. They subtracted. They plugged varying values into a mathematical formula to arrive at hypothetical levels.

Of course, if one starts at Level 12 and concedes a two-level enhancer and compares that to a Level 16 with a downward departure worth three levels, the outcome still fits the 12-to-24-month range. Or is it 18-to-24?

It was as if instead of attending a sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, I had stumbled into a math class. The professor, U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas, and prosecutor Matt Axelrod crunched the numbers for 30 minutes.

For those of you who thought that the guidelines were a thing of the past, you couldn't be more wrong. Judges still must consider the guidelines and therefore must engage in this ritual of adding and subtracting points. More from Grimm:

And Ken Jenne, once the most powerful politician in Broward County, sat impassively as lawyers debated what numerical values to assign aspects of his life. Criminal transgressions minus good works. Either add or subtract values for acceptance of responsibility, the money he filched, his remorse, his reluctance to admit guilt. Figure years of public service but take an upward departure for betraying the public trust.

It amounted to a downward departure from reality. As if a judge only needed a black robe and hand calculator.


Anonymous said...

It is true that no defendant should be reduced to a number, but the Guidelines are a well-intentioned effort to acheive some uniformity at sentencing, which I think is very important. The appearance (and I dare say the reality in a world with no Guidelines) that the punishment for a crime depends on what judge is assigned to the case undermines the judiciary. It's also worth mentioning that the Sentencing Commission is not totally evil (as some defense lawyers seem to think) . . . they have been advocating for a reduction in the crack-cocaine disparity for years. Thankfully, they were ultimately successful in making some progress on that front.

Anonymous said...

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People who run this gallery have bad reputation. Past workers were in jail for stealing art... Gallery sell expencive artwork, master's prints. I do not know if it is real. How can I protect myself from scambags/?