The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Washington state case that questions whether a decades-long prison sentence given to a sex offender should be sharply reduced under a legal standard established two years ago, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Lonnie Burton, who earlier had been convicted of multiple counts of child rape and molestation, raped a 15-year-old boy in 1991. After he was convicted of that crime as well as burglary and robbery, a judge gave him a 46 1/2-year sentence.
Burton, now in his early 40s, argues that the sentence is unconstitutionally long under the Supreme Court’s “Blakely” ruling two years ago that any finding or fact that prompts a judge to extend a sentence beyond the normal range must be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a jury. Burton says the Blakely decision should be applied retroactively — in which case his sentence would be slashed by about 21 years. Washington Assistant Attorney General John Samson said Burton faced a tough legal challenge because typically, the Supreme Court allows few new rules to be applied retroactively.