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As Always, Watch Out for Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

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On September 21, 2010, I spoke briefly with Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimum Sentencing, during the ACLU’s 90th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C. I told Julie how inspired I was from the first time I heard her speak early on in my criminal defense career nearly twenty years ago, with her taking action to reverse injustice (here mandatory minimum sentencing) rather than to rant and rave about it.

When I mentioned to Julie how a conviction even for using a computer to expose his genitals to a person under fifteen brings one a five year mandatory minimum sentence in Virginia, Julie mentioned how today’s sentencing climate does not even make a five-year mandatory minimum seem so harsh to plenty of people.

Just three days after my talk with Julie, the Fourth Circuit ruled 2-1 that Torrell Vann’s three prior convictions in North Carolina for taking indecent liberties with a child qualified as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), to require a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence where otherwise he was facing up to ten years in prison. U.S. v. Vann, ___ F.3d ___ (4th Cir., Sept. 24, 2010 )

Praised be dissenting Judge King for arguing and explaining in detail in Vann that the majority’s analysis was flawed in determining that Mr. Vann’s indecent liberties convictions counted towards a mandatory minimum sentence under the ACCA.