“All Blakely All The Time” For U.S. Prosecutors

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Talk to any federal prosecutor and the same name will be on virtually all of their minds: Blakely, reports the Seattle Times. Often, it will be accompanied by a throwing up of the hands, or even a scowl. Blakely vs. Washington was the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that said the Constitution prohibits judges from increasing sentences based on their own estimation of the severity of a crime. The case involved a Washington state man, Ralph H. Blakely, who said his punishment on kidnapping charges was too harsh. Experts say Blakely will wind up taking the guts out of the 2-decade-old federal guideline sentencing system, too. “The ramifications are just huge,” said John McKay, U.S. attorney for Western Washington. “You walk into the office and every single lawyer is struggling with this. It’s all Blakely all the time here.”

U.S. District Court judges in Seattle have postponed most major sentencings until they get further guidance. The judges plan to sit as a group in September – a rarity – to hear arguments and, hopefully, agree upon a unified response. For now, federal criminal lawyers are left with little more than crystal balls. “Because the Supreme Court chose not to directly speak on it, prosecutors, defense attorneys and district judges are left to fend for themselves,” McKay said. “The biggest thing is we have tremendous uncertainty.”

Link: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001991718_fedcourt29m.html

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