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Who Needs Proof? You're Serving Time for Murder Regardless

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By William Peacock, Esq. on March 29, 2013 4:01 PM

Archery Lynn Overstreet, in addition to having a highly unfortunate name, also has an exceptionally sordid past. In 1986, while on probation for a burglary, he joined his brother, Clifford Carter, burglarized a home, and stole 13 firearms and a car. The duo then shot a police officer (and missed another) after they were pulled over for a seatbelt violation. They fled to a relative's apartment complex, where they abducted, sexually assaulted, and shot a woman. She miraculously survived, despite four bullet wounds and a fall down an embankment.

He served 22 years of a 60 year sentence before being paroled in 2008. In 2010, he cut off his ankle monitor and fled Texas. He was caught a month later in Florida with a loaded gun and a roll of bloody duct tape. His wife, Taffy Overstreet, has never been found.

Prior to her disappearance, she had mentioned arguments with Overstreet to her relatives, as well as her demand for him to move out. After she disappeared, her phone was tracked to the area where Overstreet committed the 1986 sexual assault and attempted murder. The phone then traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, north to New York City, and back to Jacksonville, where it was used to locate Overstreet. He admitted to stealing her possessions, but denied the murder.

Because the police could only prove that he murdered his wife by a preponderance of the evidence, they chose to charge him with a felon-in-possession gun rap. Once his prior felonies, parole status, and Armed Career Criminal Act classification were accounted for, he faced a sentencing range of 180 to 188 months and a maximum of life in prison. The district court imposed an upward variance to sentence him to 420 months.

When imposing the sentence, the district court highlighted a couple of upward variances that were applicable, such as U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3, because Overstreet's criminal history category of V substantially underrepresented the seriousness of his actual criminal history. In addition, the court stated that it was certain that Overstreet killed his wife.

However, it also stated that even without the two extra variances and the murder non-charge, it would have given the same sentence either way, as Overstreet is a career criminal who was not deterred by his previous decades in prison.

Was the more-than-double sentence reasonable? Overstreet argues that the consideration of Taffy's alleged murder was unconstitutional, as it was never charged and proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, the district court is entitled to consider the murder when making its sentencing determination, as it is germane to a number of § 3553(a) factors, specifically the "history and characteristics of the defendant," the need for the sentence to "promote respect for the law," "afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct," and "protect the public from further crimes of the defendant."

While the court can consider the murder, did it go too far in doubling his sentence? The Eleventh Circuit didn't think so, especially considering his heinous past.

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