A victory today for the rights of juries - and of defendants:
The Supreme Court struck down much of the system for sentencing criminals in federal cases today, reaffirming the principle that juries, not judges, must weigh factors that can add time to a defendant's prison term. In a 5-to-4 ruling, the justices said that the 17-year-old federal sentencing system is invalid insofar as trial judges, rather than juries, have been ruling on the facts that go into determining time behind bars. The ruling was hardly unexpected, since the court ruled last June that Washington State's sentencing system was invalid because it conferred too much power on judges to weight the facts: the same basic issue presented in the case that was decided today... "It has been settled throughout our history that the Constitution protects every criminal defendant 'against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged,' " the controlling opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens said...The sentencing system that was partly invalidated today was created to minimize wide disparities in sentences imposed for seemingly similar crimes. The Supreme Court majority said today that the statute's basic purpose was a noble one, but that judges must now regard some of its provisions as guidelines rather than rules.


Post a Comment

<< Home