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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Two Indiana rulings today from 7th Circuit, including one remanded because of a typo [Updated]

In U.S. v. Marion (SD Ind., McKinney), a 4-page opinion, Judge Kanne writes:

The district court denied Kelvin Marion’s motion to reduce his sentence under § 3582(c)(2) on a form order with a single sentence of explanation: “As directed by 18 U.S.C. § 3581(c)(2)1 the Court has considered the relevant factors in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b) and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and determined a sentence reduction is not appropriate.” Because we find the district court’s written analysis a bit too terse to allow this court to meaningfully review its decision, we must remand. * * *

Some statement of the district court’s reasoning is necessary for this court to be able to meaningfully review its decision.

In ruling on the motion to reduce, the district court did not supply any reasons for its decision. The district court aptly considered and thoroughly explained the relevant factors at the time of Marion’s original sentencing; however, several years have passed since then. We think that a district court’s order on a motion for a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) should at least address briefly any significant events that may have occurred since the original sentencing. If the district court believes that nothing particularly noteworthy has changed concerning the basis for the defendant’s original sentence, some simple explanation to that effect will apprise both the defendant and this court of that fact.

Our opinion in this case should not be read to expand what is required of a district court when sentencing a defendant or considering a motion to reduce a sentence under § 3582(c)(2). We have no intention of counting words or applying some rigid formulation to statements of reasons, particularly on a motion to reduce a sentence. The problem with the order here is not that the district court used a form order, or even that the order contained only a one-sentence explanation. The problem arises from the fact that it is impossible for us to ensure that the district court did not abuse its discretion if the order shows only that the district court exercised its discretion rather than showing how it exercised that discretion. Some minimal explanation is required.

We REMAND to the district court to provide a brief statement of reasons, consistent with this opinion, for denying Marion’s motion for a sentence reduction.

In U.S. v. David Neighbors, et al (SD Ind., Young). a 24-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:
In 2008, a grand jury indicted David Neighbors, LaFrederick Taylor, Kamal Sims and Trevor Perry for participating in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and powder cocaine. After an eight-day trial, a jury convicted Neighbors, Taylor, Sims and Perry of conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine, finding each responsible for various levels of drugs involved in the conspiracy. The jury also found Neighbors guilty of three additional drug charges and Taylor guilty of a gun charge. The jury acquitted Perry of a felon in possession of a weapon charge and acquitted one of their co-defendants completely. Neighbors, Taylor, Sims, and Perry now appeal various aspects of their consolidated trial and Perry appeals his sentence. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm on all counts.
[Updated at 6:36 PM] Sentencing Law Blog notes today's U.S. v. Marion opinion here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 29, 2009 11:23 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions