Stop the Unfair Sentencing Trap in VA

1.  Disparities from Unfair Sentencing Guidelines: Defendants in Virginia are getting trapped by harsh sentencing and denied the right to a fair appeal.

Kevin Key was a first time offender convicted of a drug offense. Sentencing guidelines presented by probation and parole officials recommended no more than 2 years and 2 days of incarceration.
Instead, he was sentenced to 31 years. Because Virginia abolished parole, he won’t get out until 2027. His family lives in California and can’t afford to visit him because they have drained their bank accounts for legal expenses.
Kevin Key’s case is not unique. In more than 3000  cases between 2007 and 2013 (not including cases from 1995 to 2006) and (not including cases from 2014 to today), whereas judges provided no written reason for exceeding sentencing guidelines — even though they are required to do so by law (Va. Code § 19.2-298.01). What’s worse, Virginia law does not allow this to form the basis of post-conviction relief or be reviewable on appeal.

The Virginia legislature has the power to change this. We need you to tell your legislators to amend Virginia Code of the Sentencing Guidelines Provision F the Virginia Code to address this injustice.###

2. July Trials from 1995 to 2000 “Fishback v Commonwealth” (June 9, 2000) ruling.  Jury deliberations are weighty and complex, making it vital participants be able to factor in all the relevant information. Yet, for five years, juries in Virginia imposed heavy-handed sentences without knowing the state had decided to abolish its parole system.

In cases where juries inquired as to whether a defendant might one day be eligible for parole — judges replied that, because of a legal restrictions, they weren’t allowed to answer.
Looking back, jurors who served during this period (1995 to 2000) have said they would have imposed shorter, fairer sentences, had they known parole release wasn’t being offered to prisoners, anymore.
The Virginia legislature has the power to fix this mistake by granting re-sentencing proceedings to the affected parties. We’ve waited long enough. The time to act is now. ###

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