Five more judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have joined their colleague in saying that courts should not “reflexively defer” to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines’ commentary when deciding punishments and must interpret rules that are ambiguous in favor of defendants.
The full Philadelphia-based court on Monday upheld the conviction but vacated the sentence of Malik Nasir, a Delaware man who was handed 210 months in prison on drug and firearms charges after a judge determined he qualified as a career offender under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Nasir argued, and the judges agreed, that career-offender enhancement shouldn’t have factored into his sentence since one of his prior convictions was an inchoate offense, which appears in interpretive commentary issued by the U.S. Sentencing Commission but not the guidelines themselves.