(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Monday, January 10, 2005

the day got away from me
Sorry -- never did get time to get back to those things I mentioned below. Short additional bits: (1) everybody in the criminal law world hopes that, either tomorrow or Wednesday, the Supreme Court will finally tell us whether the U.S. Sentencing Guidlines (which govern criminal sentences in federal courts, making sentencing largely a system of mathematics rather than human discretion) are unconstitutional at least to the extent that they allow judges (not juries) to make findings of fact that end up increasing the sentence. As an example, a jury might convict you of wire fraud; but then, the Guidelines give the judge the power to find that you caused 10 million dollars of loss by that fraud, and so the calcuation of your sentence, under the Guidelines, goes through the roof. The theory of those who attack the Guidelines -- and the Supreme Court will probably agree -- is that this is an unconstitutional intrusion on the right to trial by jury. If that's what they hold, and again I think they will, it will be necessary to re-vamp the federal system of criminal sentencing law, so expect lots of politics/policy debates over criminal sentencing in the near and medium term future. (2) More about the other things later.

On a different note, I have not yet mentioned how much I love the show Mythbusters, a wonderful mix of urban legend, scientific experimentation, and blowing things up. The Mythbusters team, made up of special effects and engineering experts, plan and carry out experiments to figure out whether you can (e.g.) really blow yourself up by talking on the cell phone while you pump gas, or save yourself from dying in a falling elevator by jumping just before you hit the bottom. Loads of fun for anyone interested in physics and especially explosions.

posted by sam 5:16 PM 0 comments


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