Recent Cases Showcase New Judicial Leeway

Black, Vick decisions illustrate turn from sentencing guidelines
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2007 4:19 PM CST
Media reporters and demonstrators, right, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), gather outside the U.S. courthouse in downtown Richmond, Va., Monday, Aug. 20, 2007. Michael Vick's lawyer...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – More federal judges are giving themselves wiggle room when it comes to once-strict sentencing guidelines, as evidenced by three recent high-profile court cases. The three—involving Conrad Black, Michael Vick, and a crack cocaine case that made it to the Supreme Court—illustrate how a spate of high-court rulings have given judges more leeway, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The trend is expected to decrease the average sentence; courts have shown themselves 10 times more likely to lighten than to lengthen sentences when departing from the guidelines. "Will we see a very severe federal system going soft?" asked one expert. "I don't think so. It's a loosening, but not all reins coming off."