Several hundred and perhaps thousands of federal prisoners have strong cases to reduce their sentences under a Supreme Court ruling on Friday that a mandatory sentence provision of the 1984 Armed Career Criminal Act is unconstitutionally vague, says Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman on his Sentencing and Public policy blog. The ruling means that some prisoners sentenced to at least 15 years in prison could legally have been sentenced to at most 10 years, Berman says.
The U.S. Justice Department now must determine which inmates may successfully challenge their sentences. Berman believes “it is truly amazing” that Justice Antonin Scalia was able to convince five colleagues (including three of the four newer Justices) to issue a pro-defendant constitutional criminal procedure ruling in the case. He notes that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority opinion. The case is Johnson v U.S.