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Sentencing — reasonableness

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit


Sentencing — reasonableness

A district court committed no procedural error in not finding that a defendant’s mental illness warranted a below-guideline sentence.

“We perceive no procedural error in the district court’s approach. The district court thoroughly addressed the issue of Mr. Starko’s mental illness and any possible mitigating role it should have played in his sentence. Indeed, after defense counsel had addressed the court on the matter of sentencing and Mr. Starko had begun his allocution, the court interrupted the defendant and questioned him directly about his mental health history. The dialogue between the court and the defendant revealed a person who had realized that he had some sort of mental disorder, had engaged in various forms of self-diagnosis and self-help, but had received no diagnosis or professional care until Dr. Cuneo’s examination in connection with this proceeding. The transcript reveals a district court that, far from ignoring the contention of defense counsel, actively pursued the matter of Mr. Starko’s mental health. The court acknowledged that Mr. Starko ‘clearly … has a mental issue.’ R.53 at 83. Nevertheless, the court was unable to accept that there was a connection between Mr. Starko’s mental illness and the crimes to which he pleaded: ‘I have a hard time accepting the defendant’s defense of himself in terms of blaming it both on the type of medication he was taking, and then the medication he didn’t take[] … .’ Id. at 82. Moreover, the court noted that there was no question concerning Mr. Starko’s competency, his ability to aid in his own defense or his capability to understand the wrongfulness of his actions. See id. at 83. Consequently, this is not a situation where the district court ‘passed over in silence’ the defendant’s principal argument for a reduced sentence. Harris, 567 F.3d at 854 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is clear that the court understood Mr. Starko’s arguments and his condition, but did not believe that his condition excused or mitigated the ‘quite serious’ and ‘deliberate’ crimes that Mr. Starko committed. R.53 at 82.”


13-1217 U.S. v. Starko

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Herndon, J., Ripple, J.

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