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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 168981 Find in a Library
Title: One More Legacy of Rodney King
Journal: ABA Journal  Volume:82  Dated:(September 1996)  Pages:44,46
Author(s): D O Stewart
Date Published: 1996
Page Count: 2
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: In Koon v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court stamped the Rodney King incident with another legacy: the possibility of greater sentencing discretion for Federal trial judges.
Abstract: Koon v. United States involved the Federal sentences imposed on two Los Angeles police officers, Stacey C. Koon and Laurence M. Powell, for their roles in the videotaped police beating of King in 1991 when he did not submit to arrest after being detained in a traffic stop. Following a controversial acquittal in 1992 on State assault charges, Koon and Powell were convicted in U.S. district court of depriving King of his Federal civil rights in the incident. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Koon and Powell faced prison terms in the range of 70-87 months each, but the trial court granted two controversial downward "departures" from the indicated sentencing category. The officers won a five-level departure on the grounds that King provoked the initial use of force against him. A three-level reduction also was granted because Koon and Powell would be vulnerable to reprisals from other prisoners, they had been subjected to prior State prosecution, raised no recidivism risk, and would be disqualified from further employment in law enforcement. These two downward departures brought the sentencing range down to 30- 37 months. Each man received a 30-month sentence. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed both departures, giving no deference to the reasoning of the district court. The U.S. Supreme Court restored the departures granted by the trial court, with some reservations. The greatest significance of this decision was the Supreme Court's support for the departure mechanism itself, which could signal greater freedom for lower courts to apply departures under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Main Term(s): US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): Judicial discretion; Sentencing factors; Sentencing guidelines
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