Sunday, February 10, 2019

Failure to postpone sentencing contravened the principles underlying the right to allocution, codified in Fed.R. Crim. P. 32(i)(4)(A)

In United States v. Chapman, Appeal No. 17-1656 (Feb. 7, 2019),, the Third Circuit vacated a 
criminal sentence because the District Court had failed to postpone the sentencing hearing. Chapman’s lawyer did not notify Chapman of the court date, and so, on  the day of sentencing, Chapman asked the District Court to give him at least a week to collect letters from his family. For his role in a cocaine distribution conspiracy, Chapman was found to be a career offender with an advisory  guideline range of 188 to 235 months. As part of the plea, the government would recommend a sentence of 188 months, and Chapman could seek a variance no lower than 144 months. The District Court sentenced him to 192 months. The Third Circuit found that Chapman’s request for a continuance sufficiently preserved the issue for appeal and reviewed the District Court’s denial for abuse of discretion/harmless error. The Third Circuit found that the District Court's denial of the request to postpone sentencing to give Chapman time to collect family letters and mitigate his sentence contravened the principles underlying the right to allocution, codified in Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(i)(4)(A), and also “improperly compromised the appearance of fairness.” The Third Circuit took the rare step of ordering resentencing by a different judge.

Candace Cain of the Federal Public Defender (WDPa) argued for Chapman.

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