A very interesting concurring opinion yesterday, in United States v. Craig (7th Cir. Dec. 18, 2012); here’s a slightly trimmed version:
[From the panel opinion, which Judge Posner joined.] The defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of producing child pornography. He produced them by photographing his repeated sexual assaults on a girl who was a friend of his daughters and sometimes slept over at his house. He obtained additional pornographic images of her by threatening to kill her unless she photographed herself in sexually explicit poses and emailed him the images. The abuses began when she was 11 years old and continued until she was 14….
[T]he statutory maximum sentence for each count of conviction was 30 years. (It would have been longer had the defendant had previous convictions, but he didn’t.) The judge sentenced him to the 30–year maximum on one count and to concurrent sentences of 20 years on each of the remaining three counts, but he ordered that the set of 20–year sentences be served consecutively to the 30–year sentence, making the total sentence 50 years. The judge was entitled to do this….
[Judge Posner's concurrence:] I write separately merely to remind the district judges of this circuit of the importance of careful consideration of the wisdom of imposing de facto life sentences. If the defendant in this case does not die in the next 50 years he will be 96 years old when released (though “only” 89 or 90 if he receives the maximum good-time credits that he would earn if his behavior in prison proves to be exemplary)…. [I]n all likelihood the defendant will be dead before his prison term expires.
Federal imprisonment is expensive to the government; the average expense of maintaining a federal prisoner for a year is between $25,000 and $30,000,