Friday, March 13, 2020

Acquitted, and sentenced for it anyway

If you are ever on a jury, there are a few things you need to know, that the judge will not tell you. You can find many of them online at the Fully Informed Jury Association .

Here is a big one, that they don't even mention.

Law site:
Trial by jury is essential to preserving liberty because it protects individuals from arbitrary use of government power by allowing the people to act independently of the state. Accordingly, upholding the people’s role in the administration of justice is foundational to upholding the purpose of this procedural guarantee.

Against this background, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently introduced the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act of 2019. The bill seeks to address the insidious practice known as acquitted conduct sentencing, wherein a judge enhances a sentence based on conduct underlying charges for which a defendant has been acquitted by a jury.

You read that correctly. Under current law, federal judges are permitted to sentence individuals based on charges for which a jury found them not guilty.
Another legal site:
“Most lawyers, as well as ordinary citizens unfamiliar with the daily procedures of criminal law administration, are astonished to learn that a person in this society may be sentenced to prison on the basis of conduct of which a jury has acquitted him, or on the basis of charges that did not result in conviction,” Yale law professor Daniel J. Freed, a sententencing expert, wrote in 1992. Almost 30 years later, last week, this lawyer was herself astonished to learn this fact.

Can that really happen? “Yes, it can,” writes Oklahoma City University law professor Barry Johnson. “In federal court and many state courts, once a defendant is convicted, under the concept of relevant conduct, the defendant’s sentence can be increased by the consideration of uncharged, dismissed, or even acquitted conduct of the defendant. … Relevant conduct allows a sentencing court to reach as far back in time as can be said to be part of the scheme, plan, or enterprise related to the defendant’s convicted offense.”
This is not just hypothetical. Harvey Weinstein was acquitted of the more serious charges, but the judge sentenced him for them anyway. The LA Times reports:
“Although this is a first conviction, this is not a first offense," Judge James Burke said in imposing the sentence.
In other words, the judge sentenced Weinstein to spend the rest of his life in prison because of accusations that were not even charged as crimes, and for charges that the jury decided to acquit.

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