Supreme Court Takes Up New Challenge to Judge-Imposed Sentence


Just as the Supreme Court set off a revolution in criminal sentencing with its 2000 ruling in Apprendi v. New Jesey, now it has set the stage for another, reports ScotusBlog. The court agreed to consider overruling one of its own precedents that allowed judges, rather than juries, to rule on facts that would allow more than a minimum sentence to be imposed. Until now, the “Apprendi rule” had only insisted that juries find the facts to raise a sentence beyond a maximum, not a minimum.

At issue is the validity of the 2002 decision in Harris v. U.S., in which the court was splintered. Justice Stephen Beyer, who cast the vote to make a majority, may have changed his mind. The new case grows out of a Richmond, Va., convenience store robbery. Allen Alleyne got eighty-four months added to his sentence on the theory that he would have known that his accomplice would wield a gun as they carried out the robbery. The added sentence was based upon the finding by the judge, not the jury, that Alleyne would have known about the plan to “brandish” a gun — a factor that leads to a mandatory minimum sentence beyond a basic sentence for the crime itself.

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