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Sentencing Review – Articulation of Factors by Trial Court

State v. Jeremy D. Russ, 2006 WI App 9
For Russ: Martha K. Askins, SPD, Madison Appellate


¶14      This court observes a strong policy of deferring to the sentencing discretion of a trial court, presuming the sentence to be reasonable unless the defendant can demonstrate from the record that the court acted unreasonably. State v. Mosley, 201 Wis. 2d 36, 43, 547 N.W.2d 806 (Ct. App. 1996). The sentencing court must address three primary sentencing factors, namely, the nature of the offense, the offender’s character, and the need to protect the public, and may also consider any other relevant factors. State v. Harris, 119 Wis. 2d 612, 623-24, 350 N.W.2d 633 (1984). The sentencing court has the discretion to balance the various factors as it sees fit. State v. Jones, 151 Wis. 2d 488, 495, 444 N.W.2d 760 (Ct. App. 1989). The court must, however, explain the reasons for the particular sentence it imposes, providing a “rational and explainable basis” therefor. Gallion, 270 Wis. 2d 535, ¶¶39, 76. The “rational and explainable basis” requirement allows this court to ensure that discretion was in fact exercised. Id., ¶76.

¶17      Contrary to Russ’ claim that nowhere in the record did the court explain why a sentence of fifteen years would promote its goal of rehabilitation while protecting the public, the court did explain its rationale. It clearly stated that concurrent sentences would unduly diminish the seriousness of the offenses as well as public protection. We also reject Russ’ implicit argument that a sentencing court must explain with mathematical precision why it chose the specific number of years. The court did not have to explain why twelve years would not do and why fifteen would. As we recently indicated in State v. Fisher, 2005 WI App 175, ¶¶21-22, ___ Wis. 2d ___, 702 N.W.2d 56, defendants are not entitled to this degree of specificity. Indeed, we noted that even in Gallion the supreme court had upheld a sentence in which the sentencing judge had not specifically explained how the factors before the court translated into a specific number of years. See Fisher, 702 N.W.2d 56, 21-22; Gallion, 270 Wis. 2d 535, ¶¶53-55. We affirm on this issue.


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