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Roger Williams University Law Review



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Sentencing Guidelines, Circuits, Koon, Criminal Court


I am a law professor and a criminal defense lawyer, not a historian. It is with some trepidation that I stand before you to suggest that our very persistent regional sentencing variations have roots in the political struggles of Reformation England and the cultures of the subgroups that populated the first American colonies. I rely upon others for the historical proof, as you will see, but I think I do have standing to argue to you that we should consider whether or not there is room, even in federal sentencing, to account for deeply embedded regional variations in our basic conceptions of why and how we should punish. Aware as I am of the dangers of essentializing and the ugly history of regional variation in American penal practices, I still want to ask whether Pennsylvanians really should be expected to punish transgressors in exactly the same way as Virginians. I will suggest to you that perhaps we should respect a modicum of regional variation and not seek to eliminate every vestige of regional legal culture in America.

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Criminal Law Commons