Wednesday, April 5, 2006
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark sentencing rulings in U.S. v. Booker and U.S. v. Fanfan, defense attorneys in South Florida rejoiced, but 15 months later, prosecutors are the ones reeping the benefits. Judges in the area have opted to stay mostly within the guidelines, at a rate well above the national rate.
A new study by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that judges in the Southern District of Florida, which covers the area from Key West to Fort Pierce, have been among the strictest in the nation in sticking to the guidelines. They stayed within the guideline range in 77.5% of 1,951 cases sentenced, whereas the Northern district of Florida sentenced within the guidelines 71.7% of the time and the Middle district, 65.6%. But even more striking, the Sourthern District of Florida rate is significantly higher than the national rate. Nationally, across 94 judicial districts, federal sentences fell within the guidelines in 62.2 % of 65,368 cases.
How come? Some cite pressure from the Republican-controlled Congress and the Justice Department as a reason to be nervous about using more discretion in sentencing. "No one wants to be the judge that sticks his head out to be chopped off," said one. More. . . [Mark Godsey]