United States v. King (7th Cir., July 2022)

The Federal Docket

July 18, 2022

The Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of an inmate’s motion for compassionate release under 18 USC 3582(c)(1)(A). The inmate sought a sentence reduction based on the fact that, had he been sentenced today, he would have received less time due to changes in the law, including those reducing certain mandatory minimums. The defendant argued that the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in Thacker, holding that inmates are not eligible for reductions based on non-retroactive changes in the law, was effectively overruled by the Supreme Court’s holding in Concepcion, where the Court held that district courts are free to consider any relevant material when determining whether, or by how much, to reduce an eligible inmate’s sentence.

The Seventh Circuit addressed Concepcion directly, writing:

Concepcion … held that, when substantive changes made by the First Step Act (principally reductions in the authorized ranges for crack-cocaine crimes) entitle a prisoner to be resentenced, the judge may consider everything that would have been pertinent at an original sentencing.  We may assume that the same would be true if a district judge were to vacate a sentence on application for compassionate release and hold a full resentencing proceeding. But decisions such as Thacker concern the threshold question: whether the prisoner is entitled to a reduction under § 3582(c)(1)(A)….

The opinion is consistent with circuits that have held that, once a district court has determined that “extraordinary and compelling reasons” exist, the inmate is eligible for a sentence reduction, and a district court is free to consider non-retroactive changes, rehabilitation, and other circumstances under the 3553(a) factors in determining whether to actually reduce an inmate’s sentence, and by how much.

There is currently a circuit split regarding the extent to which district courts can determine what circumstances constitute “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” and whether such reasons may include non-retroactive changes in sentencing laws.

Appeal from the Central District of Illinois
Opinion by Easterbrook, joined by Wood and Kirsch

Click here to read our compilation of compassionate release cases.
Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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