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Court Strikes Down Calif. Sentencing Law, Holds That Sentencing Is a Jury Question

This morning, The Associated Press reported that the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Cunningham v. California, striking down California's sentencing law and affirming the sanctity of defendants' constitutional right to have their sentences determined by a jury. In the decision, Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, explained that Supreme Court decisions made clear that the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution requires that "any fact that exposes a defendant to a greater potential sentence must be found by the jury, not a judge, and established beyond a reasonable doubt, not merely by a preponderance of evidence." The California sentencing law, however, allowed judges to find facts to determine whether a longer or shorter prison sentence was warranted. 

Comments and explanation from the blogosphere are already out in force. Doug Berman of  The Sentencing Blog gives a rundown on how the justices ruled: Ginsberg, Roberts, Scalio, Thomas and Souter comprised the majority, with Alito, Breyer (former Sentencing Commissioner) and Kennedy in the dissent. Writing for the dissent, Alito argued that he found no difference between the California scheme and the advisory guidelines that the Court had approved in US v. Booker. But Berman hasn't fully parsed through the decision, which he characterizes as a criminal lawyer or professor's dream (or nightmare) because the decision is so full of so many issues to think about. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUS Blog also offers a brief summary of the decision here. Look for more commentary on this decision in the coming days ...


Posted by Carolyn Elefant on January 22, 2007 at 05:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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