[Marxism] Supreme Court upholds 200 year sentence for possession of 20 child pornography images
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 27 08:01:43 MST 2007
NY Times, February 27, 2007
Justices Decline Case on 200-Year Sentence for Man Who Possessed Child
By LINDA GREENHOUSE
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 An Arizona man who received a 200-year prison
sentence for possessing 20 pornographic images of children failed Monday to
persuade the Supreme Court to consider whether the sentence was
Arizona law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for sexual
exploitation of a minor, and it requires that sentences for multiple
convictions be served consecutively.
The sentence that the man, Morton R. Berger, received was consequently
longer than the sentence any other state would have imposed for a similar
offense, a justice of the Arizona Supreme Court wrote in an opinion last
year dissenting from that courts decision upholding the 200-year sentence.
A majority of the Arizona Supreme Court declined to examine the aggregate
sentence as a whole, instead focusing on the sentence of 10 years for
possessing a single pornographic image, which it found was not excessive or
disproportionate. It was this aspect of the analysis that Mr. Berger, a
57-year-old former high school teacher, challenged in his appeal to the
United States Supreme Court.
If this court reviews Bergers entire punishment instead of examining the
sentence for a single count, the brief said, it would find Bergers
punishment cruel, unusual and unconstitutional.
His appeal said that in most states, sentences for similar crimes would run
concurrently, and an offender would serve no more than five years, with the
additional possibility of probation or early release. Both are barred under
Arizona law. Had the offense been prosecuted under federal law, Mr.
Bergers brief said, the federal guidelines would have provided a five-year
The case, Berger v. Arizona, No. 06-349, has drawn considerable attention
in criminal law circles as providing a possible occasion for the justices
to take a fresh look at a subject they have treated only sparingly. While
fully engaged in reconsidering the respective roles of judges and juries in
criminal sentencing, the court has been extremely reluctant to strike down
particular sentences as excessive.
Douglas A. Berman, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State
University and an authority on sentencing, also noted the difference in the
courts treatment of punitive damages and criminal sentencing.
In an interview on Monday, recalling that the court last week vacated an
award of punitive damages against Philip Morris, Professor Berman said,
For a host of good reasons, the justices think they have a role in
regulating extreme corporate punishment, but I fear the court doesnt
embrace a role in regulating extreme individual punishment. Professor
Berman has been writing about the Berger case for months on his blog,
Sentencing Law and Policy.
Arizona vigorously opposed Supreme Court review of the sentence, telling
the justices that it had been properly based on overwhelming evidence of
Mr. Bergers large-scale, deliberate and long-term acquisition of child
The states brief said that after Mr. Berger turned down a plea bargain,
the prosecutor whittled the case to 20 counts out of fear of deluging the
jury with highly graphic and disturbing images. The police had found the
images in Mr. Bergers possession after learning that his credit card
number had been used to buy contraband images from a child pornography Web
site based in Dallas.
More information about the Marxism