Three years ago, a cry of relief went up from the defense bar when the Supreme Court held in United States v. Booker that the federal sentencing guidelines are not binding on judges. Finally, after all these years, the guidelines would be gone, and federal sentencing would hinge not on technical minutiae but on notions of justice and fairness.

Defense lawyers rejoiced at the prospect of making arguments for mitigation long disfavored by the guidelines. They could point to a defendant’s minor mental illness, charitable work, military service, age or poor upbringing.

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