Friday, April 24, 2009

U.S. v. Crowe (9th Cir. - April 24, 2009)

A cohabiting man and woman (who have an eighteen-month-old son) go to a bar to celebrate New Year's Eve. They return home from the bar and get into an argument, which eventually becomes physical. During which one of them grabs a knife from the kitchen counter and fatally stabs the other in the chest.

Because it's on an Indian reservation, the defendant's charged in federal court. At trial, the jury learns about previous domestic violence, including the fact that during a different argument between the parties earlier that year, the defendant hit the victim on the head with a liquor bottle. Defendant is convicted.

What's the sentence? Thirty-two months. Less than three years in prison.

Seem reasonable? Too low or too high?

Does it matter that the jury only found the defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter? After all, the stabbing was during a mutual confrontation. Does that make the three year sentence just? Or does the fact that the victim is dead -- forever -- demand more? Or do the circumstances of the offense justify less? From the facts I've discussed, what's your sense?

Let's see if one more fact matters to you. Here it is: The defendant's a woman.

Change things for you?