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September 25, 2004

Still more interesting state decisions

Though the federal courts have, perhaps quite justifiably, issued relatively few Blakely decisions as the Booker and Fanfan arguments approach, the state courts have to keep sorting out Blakely without any reassurance that helpful guidance will be coming from the Supreme Court anytime soon. (Indeed, as I suggested here, the rulings in Booker and Fanfan could actually make life harder, not easier, for the states). And the state courts continue to issue interesting Blakely decisions.

For example, in State v. Fell, 2004 Ariz. App. LEXIS 137 (Ariz. App. Sept. 23, 2004), the court considered whether a trial court could impose a natural life prison term on a first-degree murder charge without the state having to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt the aggravating circumstances the state previously had alleged when seeking the death penalty. The court ultimately concluded that Blakely did not require "a jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that certain aggravating circumstances exist before a trial judge in Arizona may sentence a defendant convicted of first-degree murder to a natural life prison term rather than life with the possibility of parole."

In Commonwealth v. Junta, 2004 Mass. App. LEXIS 1080 (Mass. App. Sept. 23, 2004), the court dropped a footnote to explain: "The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Blakely has no application here, as the Massachusetts sentencing scheme provides for indeterminate sentences."

Meanwhile, in Blakely bellweather Ohio, the court in State v. Eckstein, 2004 Ohio App. LEXIS 4594 (Ohio App. 1st Dist. Sept. 24, 2004), avoids Blakely by asserting that statutory "findings that must be specified prior to a departure from the minimum prison term are discretionary factors to be used by the trial court in determining what sentence to impose within the authorized range."

September 25, 2004 at 05:30 PM | Permalink


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