History and Government Faculty Publications

5 Tested Sentencing Case Techniques for Trial Counsel

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The Reporter: The Judge Advocate General's Corps





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A common yet formidable court-room challenge: How can trial counsel package and deliver a meaningful sentencing case following a guilty plea? Recently, we had the opportunity to explore this question in United States v. SrA Lorin Grigsby, a complex money laundering and drug distribution case at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. We felt our experiences and lessons learned were worth sharing with the field. As we prepared for the Grigsby challenge, we recognized that both of us had tried plenty of cases, but this one was going to be different. The charges were different, the evidence was different, and the players were different. Law enforcement trailed this accused for months. They tracked his movements, identified his accomplices, and slowly gathered intelligence on his operation. That was the easy part. It took even more time to figure out exactly how the accused schemed to outsmart federal banking laws. After scouring hundreds of pages of the accused’s bank records, in addition to a handful of accomplice bank records, we were left bleary eyed and confused. How was our panel going to understand this complex drug distribution and money laundering scheme, layered with levels of deception and confusion in days when it took us months of study to begin to understand this complex criminal scheme? This question was compounded because the bulk of our evidence (the bank records) looked more like an encyclopedia than a smoking gun. In this article we will share the elements of the strategy that we eventually settled on to present our case to the panel. As we looked back, we realized that the techniques we used are techniques that can be employed in all sentencing cases. We hope you will find them useful in your practice.


Trial counsel, techniques, guilty plea