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August 29, 2007

Federal habeas ruling finds Blakely problems with NY's persistent felony offender statute

As detailed in this New York Law Journal article, entitled "N.Y. Persistent Felon Law Held Invalid by Federal Court," another federal district court has declared New York state's persistent felony offender statute unconstitutional on Blakely grounds. Here are the basics:

A second federal judge has found New York state's persistent felony offender statute unconstitutional because it allows judges to find facts that can lead to a sentence beyond the statutory maximum. Southern District of New York Judge John Koeltl found that N.Y. Penal Law §70.10 violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial because, under the rapidly evolving case law of the U.S. Supreme Court, a jury has to find the facts that the state law leaves to the judge.

Judge Koeltl granted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to inmate William Washington in Washington v. Poole, 06 Civ. 2415. The decision comes five months after Eastern District of New York Judge John Gleeson made a similar ruling in a habeas case and just one month after Southern District of New York Judge Robert Sweet went the other way and upheld the law.  These three decisions will now join a fourth that is pending in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Phillips v. Artuz.

"The constitutionality of these statutes is obviously still in play," said Jonathan Kirshbaum of The Center for Appellate Litigation, who represented Washington.

August 29, 2007 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

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