A federal defendant in a child pornography case in Ohio was facing a United States Sentencing Guidelines sentence of 262 to 327 months after he was convicted at trial. The trial judge polled the jury after the verdict about what they thought would be an appropriate sentence. Jurors' responses ranged from probation to 60 months' incarceration, with a mean of 14.5 months and a median of 8 months.
After considering the jurors' individual recommendations and all of the sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C. Section 3553(a), the court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months which was 202 months below the low end Sentencing Guideline range. Despite this enormous downward variance, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the sentence, holding that it was appropriate for the court to consider the jury's recommendation.
This is a highly unusual sentence for a variety of reasons. First, juries in federal criminal cases have no role in sentencing. They determine guilt or innocence and courts then impose a sentence, usually three months after a trial, after the court has considered the Sentencing Guidelines and the sentencing factors in 3553(a). Secondly, a 202 month downward variance is exceedingly large, especially when the primary justification for the sentence is the lay jury's opinion as to what would constitute a reasonable sentence.
Our law firm will use this opinion to our clients' advantage as we continue to litigate federal criminal cases.