Supremes to Hear New Sentencing Case

by TChris

The Supreme Court will bravely step once again into the quicksand of sentencing law. The Court will decide what impact the Blakely and Booker decisions have on California law. (TalkLeft background on the cases is collected here.)

The Supreme Court rulings say judges can't increase a maximum possible prison sentence based on their own factual conclusions, rather than the findings of a jury or admissions made by a defendant in a guilty plea. ...

[California law] requires judges to choose from three possible sentences for each crime. Judges must select the middle term unless they find aggravating or mitigating circumstances. The law lays out a non-exclusive list of factors the judge should consider.

The law also says judges should consider those factors based on a preponderance of the evidence -- an easier standard to meet than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt test that applies in trials on guilt.

Sentencing expert Doug Berman calls this "very big news for sentencing and Blakely fans." And indeed it is. Unfortunately, the case probably won't be argued until the Court's next term, which begins in October.

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