Sentencing

Why Casey Anthony Should Be Glad She Wasn't Tried in Federal Court


Updated: Casey Anthony should be thankful she is being sentenced in Florida state court, according to a law professor who is an authority on sentencing.

Anthony was found guilty of four counts of providing false information to law enforcement, but acquitted on more serious charges of murder and manslaughter. The maximum sentence in state court is four years in prison, according to Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman. In federal court, she could get 20 years in prison for similar conduct, he writes at his blog Sentencing Law and Policy.

Providing false information is a misdemeanor in Florida, but in the federal system such conduct could be prosecuted as obstruction of justice, a felony, Berman says. Each count would carry a maximum five-year term, for a total of 20 years.

“Most critically,” Berman writes, “the federal sentencing guidelines would instruct a judge to sentence Anthony based essentially on the crime he believes, based on a perponderance of evidence, she covered up even after a jury has acquitted her of that crime. In other words, it is not only possible, but surprisingly common, for a federal judge to sentence a defendant for a murder that the defendant has been acquitted of!”

Berman says the use of acquitted conduct in federal sentencing is an “ugly reality” that has not received widespread attention.

Berman wrote before Anthony was sentenced on Thursday to four years in prison, with credit for time served. She will be released on Wednesday, July 13.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Casey Anthony Guilty of Providing False Info, Acquitted of First-Degree Murder and Manslaughter”

ABAJournal.com: “Little-Known Defense Lawyer Stuns Observers with Big Win for Casey Anthony in His First Capital Case”

ABAJournal.com: “Casey Anthony Prosecutor Is Shocked by Acquittal, Plans Retirement”

Updated on July 7 to include Anthony’s actual sentence.

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