Crime & Punishment

July 11, 2012

“My first offense, and they gave me all this time.  Might just as well say I’m dead.”

Those are the solemn words of Quartavious Davis who, in 2010, was an 18-year-old accused of carrying and twice discharging a firearm during a series of robberies in the Miami area. 2012 WLNR 13925081.  On the basis of his accomplices’ testimony, he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to nearly 162 years in prison without the possibility of parole. His accomplices received plea deals in exchange for their testimony and received sentences ranging from nine to 22 years in prison. Quartavious Davis’ conviction raises the question of just what is “cruel and unusual punishment.” (U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. VIII)

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a life-without-parole sentence is “grossly disproportionate” when imposed on one under 18 years of age. Graham v. Florida, 130 S. Ct. 2011, 2043. Consequently, such a sentence violates the 8th Amendment clause proscribing cruel and unusual punishment. This provides little solace for Davis, who was 18 at the time of the crimes. However, it is fair to suggest that a prison sentence exceeding a century for an 18-year-old first-time offender also qualifies as grossly disproportionate. This argument will likely be made by Davis’ attorney, who has appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 162-year sentence imposed on Davis results from “stacking”—considering each count in an indictment as a separate crime, subjecting a defendant to multiple sentences and mandatory sentencing guidelines. Davis was convicted of seven counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of violence. 18 U.S.C.A. 924(c)(1)(A). He received seven years for the first firearms count and 25 years for each subsequent count. The controversial practice of stacking is supported by those who argue it protects the public by incapacitating criminals for longer periods of time through incarceration, but rejected by opponents who believe it results in excessive and unjust sentences.

There’s no disputing where Quartavious Davis stands on the issue:

“There ain’t no justice in the justice system.”

2012 WLNR 13925081

For additional materials on this issue, the following queries may be run on WestlawNext:

stacking concurrent! /s sentenc! /s mandatory  /s federal /s crim! (31)
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Jurisdiction: All State & Federal

stacking concurrent! /s sentenc! /s mandatory  /s federal /s crim! (6)
Content: Cases
Jurisdiction: All Federal