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December 22, 2004

Blakely cases keep rolling along

With all the major Blakely rulings last week (some details here), I thought this pre-holiday week might be quiet on the Blakely front.  But there are on-line already more than a dozen state and federal appellate cases dealing with Blakely issues from Monday and Tuesday of this week alone.  Here are a few of the rulings that seem most noteworthy:

FEDERAL CASES

In US v. Taveras, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 26540 (1st Cir. Dec. 21, 2004), the First Circuit in a per curiam opinion upholds a trial judge's consequental drug-quantity findings, which were based on seemingly suspect accomplice testimony.  Of course, this finding raises Blakely issues, but the Taveras court continues the First Circuit's approach (noted here and here) of using plain error analysis to rebuke Blakely claims.

In US v. Vaughan, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 26545 (10th Cir. Dec. 21, 2004), the Tenth Circuit similarly uses plain error analysis to rebuke Blakely claims in a major fraud case.  Here, the court notes the defendant "admitted in the plea agreement to all five of these [Blakely-significant] facts [and thus] has failed to show that any sentencing error under an extension of Blakely would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial proceedings in this case."

In US v. Mellen, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 26513  (D.C. Cir. Dec. 21, 2004), the D.C. Circuit, in a split 2-1 decision, overturns the trial court's calculation of the amount of loss in a fraud case.  In so doing, the court avoided having to address Blakely, but it explained: "We issue our judgment today without awaiting guidance from the Supreme Court on this question because it appears, quite apart from any constitutional concerns, that [the defendant] may be eligible for immediate release upon resentencing. To the extent necessary, the district court may apply the Supreme Court's upcoming decisions in Booker and Fanfan in the first instance at resentencing."

STATE CASES

In State v. Gomez, 2004 WL 2937808 (Ariz. App. Div. 1, Dec. 21, 2004), the court examines the rules for applying Arizona's Proposition 200, which was "a voter initiative also known as the Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act of 1996 [which seeks] to treat initial convictions for personal possession and use of a controlled substance as a medical and social problem."  Significantly, the court finds the provision which "disqualifies an otherwise eligible defendant from mandatory probation for a drug offense based solely on a finding that the defendant has been 'indicted for a violent crime' to be unconstitutional."

In State v. Brown, 2004 WL 2938643 (Minn. App. Dec. 21, 2004), the court sustains a Blakely objection to the application of Minnesota's career offender sentencing statute.  Here's how the Brown court explains why the defendant's sentence was Blakely problematic: "Although the existence of prior convictions falls under an exception to the Blakely requirement of jury findings, an upward departure under the statute requires an admission or a jury verdict on the added finding that the convictions formed a pattern of criminal conduct."

December 22, 2004 at 01:46 PM | Permalink

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