7th Circuit explains how acquitted murder defendant can still be punished by sentencing judge

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Acquitted by a jury in the fatal shooting of a rival Latin Kings gang member, Martin Anaya nonetheless was blamed for the murder by the federal district judge who oversaw his Indiana racketeering and drug conspiracy case. As a result, Anaya had his sentence enhanced to two concurrent 30-year terms.

Anaya objected, but a federal appeals court said the trial court largely got it right, explaining in detail the standards that allow a sentencing judge to determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that a defendant committed a crime.

Any crime that establishes the maximum and minimum prison term for a defendant must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the sentencing judge has discretion to apply the lesser predponderance standard of proof to conduct supporting an increase of the convicted defendant’s prison term within that established range, the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals explained. Justia provides a copy of the court’s opinion (PDF).

Although the 7th Circuit found no error in the 30-year sentence for one of the two counts on which Anaya was convicted, the maximum sentence for the other count was 20 years. So the case was remanded to the district court for resentencing on the second count, and last week Anaya was resentenced to 20 years, the Northwest Indiana Times reports.

Anaya will still have to serve the original 30-year term on the first count.

At least two defendants in unrelated cases have recently been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison based on similar arguments by federal prosecutors: “Ex-judge once jailed for mailing live snake gets 40 years in drug case; feds say he killed witness” “Federal judge says she thinks convicted drug dealer killed police officer, gives defendant 35 years”

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