United States v. Morrisette

429 F.3d 318 (1st Cir. 2005)

 

RULE:

The "safety valve" provision in the Sentencing Guidelines ordains that the district court ought not impose the statutory mandatory minimum sentence where the defendant has satisfied five criteria, including the criterion that the defendant did not possess a firearm in connection with the offense of conviction.

FACTS:

Police officers discovered a zip-lock baggy containing approximately 70 grams of crack cocaine at defendant's residence. In the course of defendant's plea colloquy, the district court inquired whether defendant was under psychiatric care, and whether he was taking medication. He responded that he was taking Thorazine for anxiety. The district court inquired whether the medication prevented him from understanding what was happening during the plea hearing, and defendant responded in the negative. The court held that defendant's plea was knowing and voluntary, and that the district court's inquiry into defendant's mental state was not plainly inadequate. The court also held that the district court did not commit Sixth Amendment Booker error by refusing to apply the safety valve provision of 18 U.S.C.S. § 3553(f)(2) to reduce defendant's sentence below the statutory mandatory minimum after it credited evidence at sentencing that the police found 11 firearms in defendant's apartment. 

ISSUE:

Whether the court erred by not applying the "safety valve" provision in this case.

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The "safety valve" provision in the Sentencing Guidelines ordains that the district court ought not impose the statutory mandatory minimum sentence where the defendant has satisfied five criteria, including the criterion that the defendant did not possess a firearm in connection with the offense of conviction. Morrisette maintains that the district court violated the Sixth Amendment by crediting evidence that the police found eleven firearms in Morrisette's apartment during their execution of the search warrant, a sentencing fact that (according to Morrisette) Blakely determined must be either decided by a jury or admitted by the defendant. However, the court here disagrees. Accordingly, the district court finding that Morrisette failed to establish that he did not possess a firearm in connection with the offense of conviction is not subject to this type of Blakely-Booker challenge.

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