Friday, October 05, 2012

SCOTUS to decide if judicial factual-finding to increase mandatory minimum violates right to jury trial

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari today in Alleyne v. United States, No. 11-9335, to answer the question whether under the Sixth Amendment, a jury, not a judge, must find that the defendant
brandished a firearm in order to trigger the 7-year mandatory minimum under 18 USC 924(c).  In other words, the Court is taking up the question whether Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), should be overruled.

This case will be important to Kansas state-level practitioners because it will likely determine the constitutionality of the procedure Kansas uses to impose the Hard-50 life sentence.  Under K.S.A. 21-6620, the court makes the determination of whether aggravating factors exist to increase a Hard-25 life sentence to a Hard-50 life sentence (for persons convicted of first-degree murder).  Essentially, the court is making a factual finding that increases the mandatory minimum.  This is the issue that will be addressed in Alleyne, so it will definitely be worth watching.

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