Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mondragon-Santiago Clarified: Just How Much Explanation of a Within-Guidelines Sentence Is Necessary?

United States v. Camero-Renobato, No. 11-20224 (5th Cir. Feb. 8, 2012; rev. Feb. 17, 2012) (per curiam) (Benavides, Stewart, Higginson)

On considering a challenge to the adequacy of the district court's explanation for a 71-month within-Guidelines sentence in an illegal reentry case:
We clarify to Camero that our decision in United States v. Mondragon-Santiago, 564 F.3d 357 (5th Cir. 2009), which perceived procedural unreasonableness in the inadequacy of sentencing reasons, involved not “giv[ing] any reasons for its sentence beyond a bare recitation of the Guideline’s calculation.” Id. at 363 (emphasis added). As we quoted in Mondragon-Santiago, the district court in that case offered only a single sentence about a Guidelines calculation, hence gave no elaboration of sentencing reasons. Id. at 364. By contrast, the district court in the instant case entertained lengthy comments from both parties and then elaborated its particularized explanation for a within-guidelines sentence. No more is required.
Unfortunately, it's not altogether clear what the district court said. Here's the account from the opinion:
Almost the entire sentencing hearing was devoted to Camero’s request for a below-guidelines sentence. After listening to Camero’s arguments, inviting and listening to the Government’s response, and permitting the defense to respond further, the district court noted that a within-guidelines sentence was appropriate in light of the § 3553(a) factors. Indeed, the district court’s statements regarding the 71-month sentence reflect that it considered the history and characteristics of Camero, the nature and circumstances of the offense of conviction, and the need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, to provide just punishment for the offense, to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct, and to protect the public from further crimes of Camero. The district court’s failure to give additional reasons did not constitute procedural error.
Without some idea of what the district court actually said, it's hard to tell how much "beyond a bare recitation of the Guideline’s calculation" is sufficient, unless it's literally anything more than that.



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