In one of the first major repercussions of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on sentencing, a federal judge ruled yesterday that federal sentencing guidelines cannot be constitutionally applied in a child pornography case, reports the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. “I take no pleasure in striking down the guidelines today . . . but the court’s fundamental obligation is to uphold the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell said in declining to follow guidelines implemented by Congress more than 15 years ago. Cassell noted the “potentially cataclysmic implications of such a holding.” Defense attorney David Finlayson called it “a huge case. It really does have a wide-range effect on the (application) of the guidelines and it’s going to be litigated, I’m sure, for a long time.”
Last Thursday’s ruling in Blakely v. Washington called into question the constitutionality of tens of thousands of sentences imposed under state and federal sentencing guidelines. The divided Supreme Court held that judges cannot legally rely on facts not proved beyond a reasonable doubt to lengthen a defendant’s prison term beyond that set out in sentencing guidelines.