Fully Informed Jury Association

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Function of Juries | 18 Mar 2011

Judge Ignores Jury, Sentences D.C. Man for Acquitted Conduct

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U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts

D.C. man gets 18 years for $600 drug deal

More than three years ago, a federal jury acquitted Antwaun Ball on racketeering and conspiracy charges that he led a violent drug gang in the Congress Park neighborhood in Southeast Washington, convicting him solely of a $600, half-ounce drug deal.

But at Ball’s long-delayed sentencing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts disagreed, saying he saw clear evidence of a drug conspiracy before sentencing Ball, 40, to more than 18 years in prison for his conviction of the 2001 hand-to-hand drug transaction.

The judge’s ruling in federal court in Washington shines a light on a little known practice called acquitted conduct sentencing that lets judges mete out tougher prison terms based on conduct jurors rejected.

Jurors should be aware of this abusive practice by judges who may impose unduly harsh sentences even when the jury acquits the defendant of most of the charges against him or her. Remember, if there is no victim, there is no crime, and you as a juror have the right and responsibility to acquit the defendant of all charges.

Prosecutors will often pile on charges hoping that at least one will stick. Do not compromise when there is no victim by convicting the defendant on minor charges anyway just to make the state happy even if you believe the sentence will be light. This can leave the door open for abuse in the sentencing phase, and the judge may base the defendant’s sentence on conduct of which he or she was acquitted or conduct for which he or she wasn’t even charged.

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