Can Blakely Help Martha Stewart?

Martha Stewart's lawyers have filed a motion in the wake of the Blakely decision arguing that the Judge is not bound by the Guidelines and can give her probation. Martha's sentencing is set for July 16.

Stewart's lawyers say the Supreme Court's ruling in Blakely prevents Cedarbaum from considering any facts not heard by the jury when weighing Stewart's prison sentence. Without the guidelines, Stewart would face a sentence ranging from five years to probation.

Drug War Chronicle explains the chaos caused by the Supreme Court's Blakely decision. Here are some snippets:

This is the closest thing to legal anarchy I've seen in my lifetime," said Douglas Berman, professor of law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and publisher of the Sentencing Law and Policy web log (blog). "This represents a fundamental shift in power, at least for now. Before this, all the levers of power were disproportionately in the hands of prosecutors. That's all been scrambled by Blakely, but who gets the bigger clubs now remains to be seen," he told DRCNet.

"Blakely was a blockbuster, concurred Jack King, communications director for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "Things are really in a state of flux. Some people are pushing at the extremes declaring the whole system unconstitutional, but that contradicts Congress' intent. Congress wanted to limit judicial discretion. This is the best thing that could have happened because the system had fossilized. Maybe now we can start over, but if in the meantime defendants are getting lesser sentences, who is to say that's a bad thing?"

Fearing a fix that could be worse than the current system, NACDL is calling for a national commission to resolve the issue. "We don't think the guidelines are dead," said King after conferring with NACDL leaders at mid-week. "What we see here is an opportunity not seen since 1984 to create a truly just and rational federal guidelines scheme," he told DRCNet. "What we need now is a neutral analysis of the sentencing guideline systems at both the state and the federal level. We think a special commission of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys should be empanelled to find the best way of reconciling the guidelines with the Sixth Amendment," King said.

"We have sent a letter to the Attorney General and the Administrative Office of the Courts urging them to form a study commission to reconcile the guidelines with Blakely," said King. "What we don't want to see is some sort of stupid legislative quick fix that would lead to some extremely harsh and unjust sentences in many cases. One case is too many, of course, but a quick fix would do that in a whole lot of cases."

< DOJ's Witness at Senate Judic. Comm. Blakely Hearing | Full Abu Ghraib Report Now Available >
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