Monday, February 02, 2009

Spears Applied in Sixth Circuit

Quick note on Sixth Circuit’s recent application of Spears. In United States v. Johnson, No. 07–2447 (6th Cir. Jan. 26, 2009), court held that it would remand a crack case because the district court did not have the benefit of Spears when it imposed sentence. Court wanted to give district court the opportunity to impose sentence with a full recognition of its ability to reject and vary from the crack guidelines based solely on policy issues. Court found that Spears has preemptively halted the spread of an overly restrictive view of Kimbrough. Noted that Spears applies with equal force to sentencing decisions made under the new crack guidelines. Court careful to "express no opinion on whether the principles articulated in Spears may apply outside of the crack-cocaine context." Court does note that it has heeded the Supreme Court’s instructions to give district courts wide latitude in imposing sentences outside the guideline range even in mine-run cases if these sentences are adequately explained under 3553(a). This case appears to mean that one may be able to get a remand just for being a pre-Spears crack case on appeal.

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