Sunday, August 30, 2020

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data"

Sherlock Homes was right. And now the Sentencing Commission's Interactive Data Analyzer is here to give you data you need to advise your client, negotiate with the prosecutor, and persuade the court.

Let's look at some data snapshots from Kansas federal cases.

Question: What percentage of Hispanic defendants convicted of firearms offenses receive a below-guideline sentence in the District of Kansas?

Answer: In FY 2019, 26.7% of defendants, down from 52% in FY 2018.

Question: What is the median sentence for robbery defendants in the District of Kansas?

Answer: 71 months.

Question: Do Black defendants in Criminal History Category III receive more sentences in excess of 120 months for drug trafficking than white defendants in the same category in the District of Kansas?

Answer: Significantly so: 37% of Black defendants versus 17.6% of white defendants.

Black defendants:

White defendants:

Whoa, how did you do that? Especially with the cool graphics?

We didn't. The Sentencing Commission did. When you go to the data analyzer tool, you can filter data by fiscal year, circuit, district, race, gender, age, citizenship, education, crime type, and criminal history category. It's easy; no algorithms or programming, just drop-down menus.

A couple of tabs to note, to help you navigate:

Click on the sentencing outcomes tab, and you can sort by plea status, sentence type, and sentence length.

Click on the guideline application tab, and you can see how sentences are imposed relative to the guideline range and the defendant’s criminal history, and generate heat maps pegged to the sentencing table. Remember that every time you perform a new search, you’ll need to clear all of your filters. There’s a handy button to do just that in each date box.

The Interactive Data Analyzer is a terrific tool to support your arguments that a proposed plea agreement or variance accords with district, circuit, or national practice. Go to the site, play around, and learn a really useful and creative new way to advocate for your clients.

---Kirk Redmond