Eighth Circuit Affirms Major Crimes Act Conviction; Judge Bright Dissents on Race Discrepancy in Sentencing Issue

Here is the opinion in United States v. Lasley.


Lasley Brief

US Brief

An excerpt from Judge Bright’s dissent:

I write to protest the sentencing disparity in this case and the heavy disparity in sentences for other similarly-situated individuals based purely on their race and residence. Appellant-defendant Gordon Lasley (Lasley), an Indian and twenty-six-years old at the time of sentencing, will spend the rest of his life in prison for a conviction of two counts of second-degree murder, but a sentence imposed as though the conviction was for two counts of first-degree murder. This result comes about because our precedent: (1) purports to allow the imposition of the federal sentencing regime to cases under the Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153 without consideration of sentences imposed and actual time served for similar state-law crimes; and (2) authorizes federal district courts to find a defendant committed a greater offense for the purpose of sentencing when a jury expressly convicts a defendant of the lesser-included offense. The consequence of both precedents is a high probability Lasley will serve a longer sentence than a white citizen because Lasley is an Indian who committed a crime in Indian Country. This disparity resting on Lasley’s status as an Indian is unjust, unfair, and improper for the reasons set forth herein. Thus, Lasley’s sentence should be reversed and remanded.