Former Barzee Prosecutor Says State, Federal Cases Often Make Sentences Confusing

Sep 19, 2018, 9:49 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2018, 1:14 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Wanda Barzee’s earlier-than-expected release from prison took many people by surprise, including the former prosecutor of her case, Kent Morgan.

“I expected Wanda Barzee to be in for at least a few more years,” Morgan said. “She was a willing perpetrator of the crime.”

Wanda Barzee

Wanda Barzee

A seeming change of mind from the Utah State Board of Pardons and Parole, after previously saying Barzee would be released in 2024. Morgan said state and federal sentences for the same crime don’t always work together as expected.

“States do state prosecutions. The federal government does federal prosecutions, is something that is a constant point of contention in our system,” Morgan said. “Does federal authority prevail over state authority? The state has deferred to serving federal time.”

On Tuesday, about a hundred attorneys from around the state met inside Salt Lake City’s Federal Courthouse for a seminar, centered on conditions of release, and state and federal sentences. While educational legal seminars are not unusual, Morgan said the timing of this one was interesting.

“My guess is that defense attorneys and government employees want to be on the same page,” Morgan said.

Morgan said while the topic was discussed in-depth, and there were many parallels to Barzee’s case discussed, her name was never mentioned.

In an interview with KSL, Ed Smart said Utah’s indeterminate sentencing policy didn’t work out the way he expected.

“My experience, from what I’ve learned, all Utahns know that this indeterminate sentencing is nothing except for lessening what a sentence can be,” Smart said.

Morgan explained that while federal courts often have more discretion, Utah state courts are faced with multiple statutes that need to be followed. He believes this often results in a lesser sentence.

MORE: Barzee Released From Prison, Must Follow Several Rules During Supervised Release

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Former Barzee Prosecutor Says State, Federal Cases Often Make Sentences Confusing