The DC Circuit federal appellate court threw out 30 year mandatory minimum sentences under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 924(c) for several former Blackwater guards who were convicted of manslaughter after unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad in 2007. Despite Congress mandating a minimum sentence for the use of a firearm or possessing one in furtherance of a crime of violence that can be prosecuted in a federal court, the appellate court decided that the use of the 30 year mandatory minimum sentences in this case was grossly disproportionate to the defendants’ culpability for the underlying offense such that those sentences violated the 8th Amend. prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. The federal appellate court also ordered a new trial for another former Blackwater guard. The opinion is available here. This opinion is important because it may provide a framework for challenging other draconian uses of 924(c) mandatory sentences, such as challenges to sting operations where the Government pressures the target into bringing a firearm in order to subject the target to a much greater sentence than they would otherwise face.


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