Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"a notorious example of oppressive injustice culminating in an outrageous adjudication."

This quote comes from the remarkable concurrence opinion from Judge Torruella of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of US v. Cirilo-Munoz, No. 08-1830. This was a nice read today as I was pondering the injustice of a particular mandatory minimum case and the abuses that our clients often face at the arbitrary and capricious nature of "the system". The concurrence is worth a read. Here is an excerpt as quoted on from the Sentencing Law and Policy:
This case, and its outcome, is a notorious example of oppressive injustice culminating in an outrageous adjudication. It is a stain on the robes of American justice. Appellant Cirilo-Muñoz was convicted of aiding and abetting the murder of an on-duty police officer. He was convicted even though his co-defendant Lugo- Sánchez, the murderer himself, who initially tried to pin Cirilo-Muñoz for the murder and was the government's star witness, "testified unequivocally that Cirilo[-Muñoz] had no advance knowledge about his plan to murder . . . and did not assist him in committing the murder in any way." United States v. Mangual-Corchado, 139 F.3d 34, 50 (1st Cir. 1998) (McAuliffe, J., dissenting). We are now called upon to affirm the imposition of a harsh mandatory minimum sentence, which only compounds the injustice caused by Cirilo-Muñoz's conviction. Because I have taken an oath to uphold the law irrespective of my personal views, I am left without a principled choice in this appeal other than to concur, and, in the process, register my most vehement disagreement with the warped outcome of this case....

A series of coincidences have laid bare a system of law, which in Cirilo-Muñoz's particular circumstances has failed to protect him from the oppressive power of government and its bureaucracy. The result is that a seventeen-year-old adolescent has been condemned to spending his entire adult life incarcerated in a federal prison. To this wrongful outcome have contributed all three branches of government, with Congress making its contribution on this appeal through its draconian mandatory minimums.

Our prior decisions and the laws passed by Congress command this result, which I must obey. I write this opinion so that this injustice is not forgotten in our otherwise summary disposal of Cirilo-Muñoz's appeal. His case calls out for clemency and relief, and should serve to remind us both of the flaws in our system of adjudicating guilt and the dangers of mandatory minimums.

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