Excessive Sentence for Burglary Appeal In Alaska

In Bumpus v. State (Alaska1989), Bumpus participated in a series of burglaries of resort cabins in the Matanuska / Susitna Valley. He was one of a group of five men: four of these men (including Bumpus) burglarized cabins, while the fifth member of the group acted as a "fence" for the stolen property. the burglary ring operated throughout the summer of 1987 and was responsible for approximately fifty burglaries, although Bumpus did not become a member of the group until early July. At the time of these offenses, Bumpus was twenty-nine years old. He had an extensive adult criminal record. In 1977, he was convicted of shoplifting and burglary of a non-dwelling. He served 180 days in jail. the following year, he was convicted of receiving stolen merchandise, a felony for which he received a suspended sentence. In 1984, Bumpus was convicted of second-degree burglary, his third felony conviction. He received a 3-year presumptive term, and he was released from prison in July 1987. Almost immediately thereafter, he became involved in the burglary ring described above. The superior court sentenced Bumpus to a composite term of 23 years to serve. On appeal, this court concluded that 23 years was clearly mistaken that Bumpus's composite term should not exceed 15 years to serve. The supreme court vacated both the superior court's and this court's decisions, and then the court remanded Bumpus's case to the superior court for re-sentencing. From the supreme court's explanation of its decision, it appears that the court believed that Bumpus's proper sentence lay somewhere between the superior court's sentence (23 years) and this court's sentence (15 years). The supreme court stated that it was "skeptical ... that Bumpus deserved twenty-three years". the court noted that, although the sentencing judge had found various aggravating factors, the judge had not explicitly analyzed the relative importance of these factors. Moreover, the judge had not expressly found that a sentence of 23 years was necessary to protect the public, nor had he attempted to explain why Bumpus was receiving such an extraordinary sentence -- what the supreme court described as "the longest sentence ever received by a burglar in this state". Nevertheless, the supreme court did not agree that the superior court's sentencing decision should be reversed outright. Rather, the court concluded that the propriety of the sentence could not be determined until the superior court further explained its decision. For much the same reason, the supreme court vacated this court's ruling that Bumpus should not, under any circumstances, receive more than 15 years to serve. The court declared, "Without articulated findings concerning the factors that determine the range of reasonable sentences, a sentence of fifteen years is as arbitrary and unsupportable as a sentence of twenty-three years." But, from the manner in which the supreme court critiqued this court's approach to the case, it is clear that the supreme court was not suggesting that a 15-year sentence was just as likely to be excessive as a 23-year sentence. Quite the opposite: The court of appeals' abrupt choice of a fifteen-year term is, on its face, not moored to any principle. the court might be suggesting that fifteen years is the most any burglar not convicted of other crimes should receive in this state, but nothing in the applicable statutes, the prior case law, or the appellate court's reasoning explains why fifteen years should be the upper limit.