Molina-Martinez v. U.S.

Posted: March 1, 2016 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, Fantasy Supreme Court League, Punishment

WHAT HAPPENED: Defendant was convicted of a crime in Federal Court and was subject to the Federal Court’s Sentencing Guidelines.  Long story short, the sentencing guidelines consider factors that include, but are not limited to, the defendant’s criminal history, degree of crime, aggravating factors, etc., for purposes of putting each defendant in tiers that have mandatory minimums and maximum sentences.  Defendant was put in one tier (that had a range of 77-96 months), but should have been put in another tier (that had a range of 70-87 months).  Defendant was sentenced to 77 months.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Mistakes happen, but they really shouldn’t happen when it comes to sentencing since the result is the deprivation of liberty and freedom.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether or not a defendant who is mistakenly put in the wrong tier gets an automatic review of sentencing, or if that defendant has to prove harm/prejudice from the mistake.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT IS THE RAMIFICATION OF THIS DECISION:  On a limited scale, it really just affects the small class of federal criminal defendants who are mistakenly sentenced.  On a broader scale, this case speaks to the Court’s recognition of its mistakes and its willingness to resolve those mistakes.  Although this relates to a small class on a specific scale, the overall concept of fixing ones mistakes can apply to DNA evidence, wrongful convictions, or punishments we later deem unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment. On the other side, allowing automatic review could lead to more appeal petitions, which clogs up the Court system.

ROOT FOR MOLINA-MARTINEZ IF:  You have a lot of misplaced anger after watching Making a Murderer and you’re not sure how to direct it.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF: the nominal inconvenience of fixing your mistake is less important than another person being in jail.  Also, probably if you are Justice Alito.


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