Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Johnson: Sentence within statutory limits not disproportionate

In U.S. v. Johnson, No. 05-14889 (June 13, 2006), the Court affirmed a 140-month sentence for a defendant convicted of several counts of producing and distributing child pornography.
One victim, whom the defendant photographed, testified that sexual activity with the defendant started at age 8 and continued for six years.
The Court rejected Johnson’s argument that his sentence was disproportionate and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. Although Johnson had not raised this argument in the court below, the Court applied de novo, instead of plain error review, because the district court did not give Johnson an opportunity to object to his sentence.
The Court asserted that a sentence within the statutory limits generally does not violate the Eighth Amendment. Here, each count of conviction carried a statutory maximum punishment of 50 or 40 years. Hence the 140-month sentence was within the statutory limits. Johnson therefore failed to make a threshold showing of disproportionality.