Recently in Sentencing Category
The new case is Montgomery v. Louisiana, No. 14-280. This case is a better vehicle than Toca, as the facts are more typical of an LWOP case. Montgomery murdered Deputy Sheriff Charles H. Hurt in 1963, when Montgomery was 17. He could have been executed in the electric chair at the time, but the jury granted him leniency.
The question presented as phrased by the petitioner/defendant is, "whether Miller adopts a new substantive rule that applies retroactively on collateral review to people condemned as juveniles to die in prison?" The Court added its own question, "Do we have jurisdiction to decide whether the Supreme Court of Louisiana correctly refused to give retroactive effect in this case to our decision in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. ____ (2012)?"
Note the "die in prison" phrasing. Apparently death is no longer different.
My initial impression is that the answers are "no" and "yes." Since the parties are agreed on the jurisdictional point, the Court may appoint an amicus to argue the "no."
In other action, Court decided two civil cases today. Still waiting on the Facebook threats case, Elonis v. United States. Possibly tomorrow.
Yesterday the Court turned down the Wisconsin voter ID case, Frank v. Walker, No. 14-803.
I do not think there is much doubt, Bill, that many persons concerned about mass incarceration want to lower sentences for violent criminals. I will be the first to say that I do not think anyone should get LWOP sentences. Also, arguably Weldon Angelos and Chris Williams were both "violent criminals" and I wanted both of them to get less than effective LWOP sentences.
You are right that some advocates will say they are only concerned with reducing sentences for the most sympathetic of defendants, but that is largely because you and fans of toughness do not want to even do that...
Readers are invited, it they care to, to examine the full exchange.
I sometimes get frustrated with Doug, but I have nothing but admiration for his candor.
The 2014 Best Picture Oscar winner, 12 Years a Slave, is based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup.1 Northrup, a black freeman in New York, was kidnapped and sold into Southern slavery.2 There is an eternally haunting, prolonged, and grueling scene in the movie where Northup has a noose around his neck and strains for breath by tiptoeing on the ground to keep from being lynched.3 Other slaves on the plantation are paralyzed by fear and ignore him. Like a ballerina en pointe, Northup spends long hours in this slow motion lynching dance until he is rescued by his owner.
This Article does not suggest that incarcerating almost exclusively black men for unprecedented lengthy terms of incarceration, for crack cocaine offenses they illegally committed, is the equivalent of lynching innocent blacks. It does, however, suggest both actions have strong racial overtones; both share a lack of public outcry; both share tacit public complicity; both share governmental complicity; both share devastating effects on families, children, and neighborhoods; and both have been accomplished largely at the hands of those unknown--at least to the general public.
Before clicking on the link, care to guess how many of the six answer the main question "no"? Or who wrote it? (Oops, that singular pronoun in the second question sorta gave away the first.)
The nation as a whole had a 6% drop in property crime over the two-year period, while California had a 3% increase, a difference of 9%.
Mr. Grassley [Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee], for reasons that defy basic fairness and empirical data, has remained an opponent of almost any reduction of [federal] sentences. In a speech from the Senate floor this month, he called the bills "lenient and, frankly, dangerous," and he raised the specter of high-level drug traffickers spilling onto the streets.
Mr. Grassley is as mistaken as he is powerful. Mandatory minimums have, in fact, been used to punish many lower-level offenders who were not their intended targets. Meanwhile, the persistent fantasy that locking up more people leads to less crime continues to be debunked. States from California to New York to Texas have reduced prison populations and crime rates at the same time. A report released last week by the Brennan Center for Justice found that since 2000 putting more people behind bars has had essentially no effect on the national crime rate.
The Times's claim about the "persistent fantasy" that increased incarceration produces less crime is stupid, dishonest and false.
Increased incarceration had some effect, likely in the range of 0 to 10 percent, on reducing crime in the 1990s. Since 2000, however, increased incarceration had a negligible effect on crime.
Apparently no one has told the Supreme Court that yet, and they have set the argument for March 30.
Update: A stipulation to dismiss has been filed. Rule 46.1 provides that "the Clerk, without further reference to the Court, will enter an order of dismissal." Update 2 (2/3): Done.
Brumfield v. Cain, No. 13-1433, another Louisiana case, is set for the same day and probably will go as scheduled. It has to do with the way that state handles murderers' claims that they are intellectually disabled.
That's it for criminal cases on the March calendar. San Francisco v. Sheehan, No. 13-1412, is a law-enforcement-related civil case on the Americans with Disabilities Act and accommodating "an armed, violent, and mentally ill suspect." It is set for March 23.
Now the case will be dismissed as moot. John Simerman reports for the New Orleans Advocate:
A state prisoner from New Orleans who recently landed at the center of national legal debate about mandatory life sentences for youthful offenders won his freedom Thursday after 31 years in prison.I think that is a proper disposition. Toca's sentence would have been unduly harsh even if he were an adult at the time of the crime. The deceased was his accomplice in the robbery. In my view, the felony-murder rule should at least be reserved for the deaths of innocent people, and this death should not have been considered murder at all.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office agreed to vacate his murder conviction.
In predominantly African-American neighborhoods of U.S. cities, far too many killers have gotten away with far too many crimes for far too long, fueling a disastrous murder epidemic. Solving these murders and other serious crimes of violence in black communities should be a top goal for law enforcement--and it deserves to take priority over much more widely discussed issues such as racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police in black neighborhoods, from Ferguson to Staten Island.* * *
But instead of checking this wave of urban violence, America threw up its hands. Prison terms per unit of crime in the U.S. hit rock bottom in the 1960s and '70s, making the U.S. one of the world's most lenient countries, as William J. Stuntz of Harvard Law School and others have shown. Reformers focused on the rights of defendants, remaining blind to the ravages of under-enforcement.
In the 1980s, a get-tough backlash hit, ushering in the current era of mass incarceration and long sentences. But unsolved homicides still piled up in black neighborhoods. Even as convicts grew old in prison, detectives remained overwhelmed by exploding street violence.