The Supreme Court’s latest sentencing-law decision, this week’s ruling that overturned a California law, is part of a high court “war on sentencing has enraged the lower courts and left the law in a shambles,” says Slate.com. In the 2000 case that got the series started, Apprendi v. New Jersey, the court suggested that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of trial by jury means that a defendant can’t be sentenced above the maximum specified in a statute unless a jury finds the facts that justify the increase.
In two cases to be argued next month, the Supreme Court will fill in more detail about how much discretion federal judges actually now have. Doug Berman, law professor and sentencing blogger, believes that both cases look like vehicles for additional change and leniency. In one, the defendant is a military veteran whose perjury crime looks more like a misunderstanding than a deliberate lie. In the second, an appeals court supplied the facts it relied on to reverse the sentencing break given by a trial judge.