The Champion

December 2012 , Page 09 

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Henderson v. United States And the Plain Error Rule: Metaphysics, Unicorns, and Injustice (Inside NACDL)

By Norman L. Reimer

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Author’s Note: The article originally appeared in JURIST (, a Web-based legal news and legal research service at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Imagine a criminal prosecution in which a trial judge unlawfully imposed a far longer sentence on a young man than the law prescribed, even though his lawyer, the prosecutor, and every appellate judge reviewing the sentence agreed that was the case. Now imagine that notwithstanding the universal agreement that the sentence was improperly enhanced, the man cannot obtain relief from the courts. Well, such has been the fate of Armarcion Henderson, whose case, Henderson v. United States, was argued before the Supreme Court on Nov. 28, 2012.

Mr. Henderson, who was 26 years old at the time of his sentencing, had entered a plea of guilty to a single-count indictment that charged him with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He faced a sentence of 33 to 41 months under the advisory Sente

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