innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Friday, January 14, 2005

Freedom?


Munchinski is still waiting Posted by Hello

After 20 years behind bars, David Munchinski is expected to get word today on whether he'll be released. The story gets front-page play in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a similar story in the Uniontown paper and an Associated Press story that was picked up by several papers and TV stations. The Post-Gazette will be running a story once the decision is made.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Radical change or more of the same?

A day after the Supreme Court rejected the federal sentencing guidelines, observers are scratching their heads over what the ruling actually means. Ohio State Law Professor Douglas Berman explained it well on NPR today: depending on the judge, it can mean radical change or more of the same.

A roundup of news stories shows how even reporters had difficulty explaining the significance of the ruling. The Post-Gazette reports the guidelines can stay on the books as an advisory for judges, conceding the practical effects of the ruling are hard to predict. Another story says local judges are reacting favorably to the ruling.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sentences in doubt



The Supreme Court rejected federal sentencing guidelines today, likely forcing the courts to reconsider the sentences of thousands of inmates. Previously, judges were forced to tack years onto sentences based on outside factors that were never proven in court. Now, it appears a jury must first consider everything.

In one of the cases before the court, a jury found Ducan Fanfan guilty of intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. He faced 5-6 years in prison. But the judge decided that Fanfan was a gang leader and boosted the sentence to 15-16 years under the federal guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled factors increasing any sentence beyond the maximum must be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court had already struck down a state sentencing system for giving judges too much leeway. The 64,000 people sentenced in the federal system each year will now face the same standard.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

DNA sweep



The New York Times fronts an interesting story about a police department's efforts to collect DNA from every man in a small Cape Cod town. The investigation into fashion writer Christa Worthington's murder had come up empty after three years, so police are asking all 790 men in town for DNA.

The Innocence Project's Barry Scheck criticized the sweep, saying the process was being done poorly.