Share on Facebook
Share on X
Share on LinkedIn

USA v. Wurzinger. 05-3803. Richard Wurzinger, age fifty-eight, was sentenced to 262 months in prison, the longest sentence within the range indicated by the Sentencing Guidelines for his role at the center of a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Given his age and his failing health, he will likely die in prison.

He appeals his sentence, arguing that the district court did not follow proper sentencing procedure and that his sentence is unreasonably long. The 7th Circuit affirms the sentence.

Wurzinger’s appeal is based on two arguments.

First, Wurzinger argues that the district court improperly presumed that an appropriate sentence falls within the guidelines range.

Second, Wurzinger argues that his sentence is unreasonably long.  In US v. Hankton, this court decided that the presumption in favor of a guidelines sentence is appropriate and that a court need only consider a non guidelines sentence when a defendant provides “cogent reasons.”

Wurzinger’s strongest argument is that his sentence is unreasonable is based on his age and his health; he argues that his sentence is unreasonable because his diabetes will kill him before he is free.

The 7th Circuit starts by stating that there is a worthy tradition that death in prison is not to be ordered lightly, and the probability that a convict will not live out his sentence should certainly give pause to a sentencing court. US v. Crickon, 240 F.3d 652, 656 (7th Cir. 2001). Death is by universal consensus a uniquely traumatic experience, and prison often deprives defendants of the ability to be with their families or to otherwise control the circumstances of death.

The 7th Circuit says nothing about whether a lower sentence would have been equally reasonable. In short, 7th Circuit held that age and illness do not, without more, make Wurzinger’s sentence unreasonable.