Blakely Argument Update

David Ziff at the Blakely Blog was in the courtroom today for the defense arguments in the Booker and FanFan cases. Here's his synopsis. TChris stood his ground and did not back down. A quote:

When compared to the Justices and Mr. Clement, Mr. Kelly is indeed a criminal trial expert, and it would be interesting to know how much weight the Justices gave to his statements based on experience in the trenches.

It's all very nice and good to argue these cases in the abstract, as professors and law students, but the reality is, that criminal defense attorneys see the inequities of the guidelines on a daily basis. The jury finds X but the defendant gets sentenced for X + Y because of an argument the prosecutor makes to the judge, after the trial, where the burden of proof is reduced and where the rules of evidence aren't applicable. Ashcroft today held a news conference and said, essentially, the guidelines are necessary because they have made the crime rate go down because they send the message that you shouldn't do the crime if you can't do the time.

No one is arguing defendants shouldn't be held accountable for their conduct. It's another thing entirely to double or triple their time based on arguments the jury never hears and the prosecution is allowed to establish by hearsay and speculation.

My prediction: Blakely will be held to apply to the guidelines. If the prosecution is seeking an increase based on additonal facts, there will be need to be a second phase of the trial, where the jury is presented with facts, subject to the rules of Evidence, which the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the Constitution, that was our system until 1987 when the Guidelines came in, and since 1987, some defendant somewhere has gotten screwed by the Guidelines every day. Enough.

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