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Showing posts from June, 2007

Rita's impact in the 3rd Circuit

In Rita v. U.S., 2007 WL 1772146, the Supreme Court ruled that the circuits "may," for purposes of appellate review only, apply a "presumption of reasonableness" to sentences within the Guidelines range. But the Court placed so many limits on this presumption, and went on at such length to stress the discretion district courts have at sentencing, that ultimately Rita is a very good decision that emphasizes that the guidelines are truly "advisory."

The key points from Rita:

1) The sentencing court has broad discretion in sentencing, and sentences will be reviewed deferentially for "abuse of discretion" as they were under Koon.
Rita, 2007 WL 1772146, *9 ("appellate ‘reasonableness’ review merely asks whether the trial court abused its discretion").
2) The district courts may not apply any presumption of reasonableness to the Sentencing Guidelines range.
Rita, at *9 ("We repeat that the presumption before us is an appellate presumption. .…

In possession of child pornography case, the Third Circuit rejects certain special conditions of supervised release.

In United States v. Voelker , No. 05-2858, (3d Cir. June 5, 2007), Voelker pled guilty to possessing child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2252(a)(2). The court imposed a supervised release term of life. On appeal, he challenged three special conditions: (1) The defendant is prohibited from access to any computer equipment or any on-line computer service at any location, including employment or education. This includes, but is not limited to, any internet service provider, bulletin board system or any other public or private computer network; (2) The defendant shall not possess any materials, including pictures, photographs, books, writings, drawings, videos or video games, depicting and/or describing sexually explicit conduct as defined at Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 2256(2); and (3) The defendant shall not associate with children under the age of eighteen except in the presence of a responsible adult who is aware of the nature of the defendant’s background and…

Habeas Corpus: Plain Error Review When Party Fails to Object to Magistrate’s R & R

In Nara v. Frank, No. 05-4779 (3d Cir. May 8, 2007), the Third Circuit held that “where a party fails to file timely objections to a magistrate judge’s R & R in a habeas proceeding, and the district court adopts the R & R, we will only review the R & R for plain error.”

Nara pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in the first degree and was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. Over the next eleven years Nara filed three petitions for post-conviction relief with the Pennsylvania state courts, claiming his due process rights were violated because his guilty pleas were accepted while he was mentally incompetent and his counsel was ineffective for failing to have his competency evaluated. With respect to Nara’s second petition, the Court of Common Pleas issued an order allowing him to withdraw his guilty pleas, having been persuaded by “quite convincing” and “unrebutted testimony” from a forensic psychiatrist that Nara was in fact incompetent when he pleaded guilty. …