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United States v. Jackson

Citation. 835 F.2d 1195, 1987 U.S. App. 16817.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Defendant, Dwight Jackson, was released from prison, to which he was sent for convictions on two bank robberies. Thirty minutes after release, he robbed another bank. The District Court sentenced him to life without parole.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The imposition of life imprisonment for a career criminal is permissible.


The Defendant had been serving a sentence of imprisonment for the robbery of two banks. Thirty minutes after his release from prison, he committed another bank robbery. He was back in jail before sundown on his day of release. The District Court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under a statue forbidding the possession of weapons by career criminals, and the Defendant appealed on the ground that the statute permitted a sentence of a determinate number of years but not a life sentence without the possibility of parole.


Did the Court properly sentence the Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole?


Yes. Affirmed.
Specific deterrence had failed for this Defendant. The Court was therefore permitted to consider general deterrence and incapacitation.

The statute under which the Defendant was sentenced did not have a stated maximum sentence. However, life imprisonment without parole and a long term of imprisonment serve the same purpose since the Defendant was 35 years of age at the time of the crime. Hence, to read the statute as authorizing a long term of imprisonment measured in a number of years but not a life sentence is absurd. The Defendant’s sentence was not inappropriate.


The Defendant should not be imprisoned for life. A 20-year prison sentence will adequately serve the aim of deterrence, as a 55-year-old man is unlikely to commit robbery.


The principles of deterrence and incapacitation permit imprisoning a repeat offender for life.

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