Judges Laud Case As Avoiding Cookie-Cutter Justice


Federal trial judges are, not surprisingly, hailing the Supreme Court decision that gives them more discretion in sentencing. The Boston Globe quotes Chief U.S. District Judge William G. Young of Boston, who ruled last year that the guidelines were unconstitutional, as saying that yesterday’s decision will force prosecutors to prove the elements of a case to a jury or get a defendant to admit to them as part of a plea bargain. “What this does is resuscitate the jury,” he said. “It places a jury of the people at the center of the determinations which go into sentencing, and that’s where it should be.”

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner last July issued an order that mirrored the high court’s, concluding that the guidelines should be treated only as advisory. “So many times we have found ourselves in a situation where the guideline sentence made no sense in light of the facts,” she said. A major effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling, she said, is that judges may now consider individual characteristics of a defendant — a health condition, for example. “People are not from cookie cutters; cases aren’t made out of the same mold,” said Gertner, adding that judges will now be able to consider the guidelines but not be mandated to follow them if they don’t make sense in a case. “It means we will be reasonable, which is what they put us on the bench for. Nobody is going to go back to the bad days. [before the guidelines] I don’t think any judge wants to be an iron John, and I don’t think any judge wants to be a bleeding heart.”

Link: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/01/13/2_boston_jurists_hail_return_of_discretion/

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