Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sentencing Innocence And Closed Files

In several recent cases, the Supreme Court has construed criminal statutes in a manner that establishes that convicted clients, whose files are closed and who are serving very long federal sentences, are actually innocent of the sentences they are serving. For example, after Begay and Descamps, there are defendants convicted under the Armed Career Criminal Act who are serving mandatory minimum fifteen years even though, as we now know, the prior convictions are no longer valid predicates, which would leave the maximum sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm at ten years. Or how about the Burrage case, where the Supreme Court held that prisoners serving a mandatory twenty year minimum for a death resulting from drug dealing based on a substantial connection to the death are innocent unless the government established the drug dealing was the but for cause of death. We hope we can obtain relief for clients based on the intervening Supreme Court cases on direct appeal or a first motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For those situations where there is not such a clear procedural path, our office has this linked article addressing recent useful precedents entitled Helping Justice Trump Finality For Defendants With Sentencing Innocence Claims After Begay, Descamps, and Burrage.

The article has four parts:

Part I: How Loumard Harris Walked Out Of FCI Sheridan Six Years Short Of His 2020 Projected Release Date And Three Years Over His Statutory Maximum.

Part II: The Eleventh Circuit Threads The § 2255(e) Needle, With Helpful Analysis From Concurring Judge Martin.

Part III: Marrero -- Not An Insurmountable Obstacle To Justice In A Righteous Case.

Part IV: A Few Thoughts On The Nuts And Bolts

The nuts and bolts section includes seeking appointment of counsel, assessing the range of available remedies, avoiding irreparable harm, reducing supervised release, and taking a proactive role regarding closed files and prison inquiries.

Steve Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon


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