A Minnesota Supreme Court opinion has experts puzzling over whether dozens of the state’s most dangerous felons will get out of jail early or have to be resentenced, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The experts say much of the confusion hinges on nine words at the end of a case involving convicted rapist Robert Shattuck, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison more than double the 13-year prison term called for by state sentencing guidelines. The judge reasoned that “aggravating factors” justified imposing the maximum 30-year penalty allowed by law.
The state Supreme Court overruled the sentence, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Blakely ruling that unless a defendant waives his rights, only juries, not judges, can impose enhanced sentences and maximum prison terms. Some prosecutors say the Minnesota ruling may reduce prison terms for convicted felons whose cases were still open or being appealed when the Blakely decision was issued last year. “It appears we’re definitely going to have to go back and reopen those cases,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. “It’s only the most serious, the most dangerous, the most violent offenders who receive (enhanced penalties).” He added: “That has serious public safety implications.”