United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Timothy L. Brooks United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendant Randell Shelton's Motion
for Continuance of Sentencing Hearing (Doc. 439), the
Government's Response (Doc. 441), and Mr. Shelton's
Reply (Doc. 442). Also before the Court is Defendant Jonathan
Woods's Response and Request to Join Mr. Shelton's
Motion (Doc. 440). The Court would note at the outset of this
Opinion and Order that it scheduled the sentencing hearings
for Mr. Woods, Mr. Shelton, their codefendant Oren Paris, and
Micah Neal (a defendant in a related case) to be held in a
particular sequence and in close temporal proximity to each
other. It is important to the Court that this sequence and
close temporal proximity of these four very closely related
and very complex sentencings be maintained, so that these
sentencings may proceed in a rational, efficient, fair, and
fully informed manner.
Shelton asks that his sentencing hearing, currently set for
September 6, 2018, be continued to a date 30-45 days after
its present setting. (Doc. 439, ¶ 7). He offers two
reasons in support of this request. Mr. Woods likewise seeks
a continuance of his own sentencing hearing, currently set
for September 5, 2018, and he offers one reason of his own in
Shelton's first reason is that as his newborn daughter
will be 6 weeks old on September 6, id. at ¶ 3,
the requested continuance would "allow Mr. Shelton's
wife and daughter to travel to Arkansas for his sentencing
hearing," id. at ¶ 7. Similarly, Mr.
Woods's sole basis is that he lives with his parents and
helps to care for his father, and that a delay in the
sentencing hearing will allow him "more time to care for
his father." See Doc. 440, ¶ 2.
Court does not ordinarily continue sentencing hearings in
order to facilitate the attendance of loved ones or of any
other members of the public who will be observing without
participating, although of course their presence is welcome.
And the Court does not ordinarily continue sentencing
hearings in order to allow defendants more time at home with
their loved ones. Sentences to terms of incarceration are
always painful and disruptive to defendants, their loved
ones, and their dependents. By making this observation the
Court in no way means to diminish or trivialize the
importance of these cherished relationships. But it is simply
a harsh reality of the process that if such concerns were a
sufficient basis to justify continuing sentencing hearings,
then almost every sentencing hearing before this Court would
nearly always be subject to delay.
Shelton's second reason is that since his conviction in
May, one of his attorneys has "experienced significant
health issues," see Doc. 439, ¶ 4, and the
requested continuance would allow that attorney "to deal
with her recent health issues," id. at ¶
7. Mr. Shelton has not provided any further information about
his counsel's health issues, "[d]ue to the sensitive
nature of counsel's medical history," other than
that they have necessitated "multiple doctors'
visits" and the need for follow-ups with a specialist.
See Id. at ¶ 5. But he has offered to file
under seal whatever additional information the Court wants on
the matter, see Id. at ¶ 4 n. 1.
Court would make several observations here. First, Mr.
Shelton is also represented by two additional extremely
competent and experienced attorneys who were present
throughout the month-long trial of this matter. Granted, Mr.
Shelton states in his Reply that his sentencing hearing
"will be handled by" the attorney with the health
issues, who "was present with Mr. Shelton at his
pre-sentence interview," and who also "reviewed and
responded to Mr. Shelton's pre-sentence report."
See Doc. 442, ¶¶ 2-4. But he does
not say that his other two attorneys would be unable
to provide effective representation at his sentencing hearing
on September 6 in the absence of their co-counsel. For that
matter, he never says that their co-counsel's health
issues would actually prevent her from appearing at or
preparing for the hearing on September 6 either. No mention
is made, for example, of whether she has a medical
appointment that cannot be rescheduled and that conflicts
with the September 6 sentencing date.
whatever her health issues are, the Court sees no indication
that they have impeded Mr. Shelton's counsel from
providing effective representation to him during his
pre-sentence interview or while responding to his
pre-sentence report. Given the ongoing effectiveness of her
representation thus far, the Court presently sees no reason
to believe this effectiveness would suddenly cease on
conclusion, the Court presently lacks an adequate basis to
conclude that Mr. Shelton would suffer any unfair prejudice
at his sentencing hearing absent a continuance. IT IS
THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant Randell
Shelton's Motion for Continuance of Sentencing Hearing
(Doc. 439) is DENIED.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Jonathan
Woods's Response and Request to Join Mr. Shelton's
Motion (Doc. 440) is GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART, in that Mr. Woods
is permitted to join Mr. Shelton's Motion, but Mr.
Woods's sentencing hearing, like Mr. Shelton's, will
not be continued.