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June 24, 2008

Tennessee Supreme Court turns back Blakely challenges to consecutive sentencing

The Tennessee Supreme Court today in State v. Allen (Tenn. June 24, 2008) (available here), turns back two defendants' argument that Apprendi and Blakely limit judicial fact-finding to support the imposition of consecutive sentences.  Here is a key paragraph at the start of the Court's analysis:

In Defendant Lumpkin’s case, the trial court ordered partial consecutive service after finding Lumpkin to be a “dangerous offender.” See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-115(b)(4). In Defendant Allen’s case, the trial court ordered partial consecutive service after finding Allen to be “an offender whose record of criminal activity is extensive” and a “dangerous offender.”  Id. § 40-35-115(b)(2), (4).  Both Defendants argue that the imposition of consecutive sentences on the basis of these judicially-determined facts violates their federal constitutional rights as explicated in Apprendi and Blakely.  The Defendants point to the Supreme Court’s statement in Blakely that “[w]hen a judge inflicts punishment that the jury’s verdict alone does not allow, the jury has not found all the facts ‘which the law makes essential to the punishment’ and the judge exceeds his proper authority.” Blakely, 542 U.S. at 304 (citation omitted).  The Defendants contend (1) that their effective terms of service, arrived at by adding together their consecutive sentences for separate offenses, is the punishment on which we must focus and (2) that the cumulative punishment they are facing could not have been imposed absent post verdict factual findings by the trial court; ergo, in violation of Blakely’s holding. As Defendant Lumpkin’s counsel puts it, “[t]he facts necessary to sustain the imposition of consecutive sentencing in this case are not included within the jury’s verdict of guilt of the individual offenses.”  As set forth below, however, we are persuaded that neither Apprendi nor Blakely apply to a trial court’s post-verdict findings and decisions about the manner in which a defendant serves his discrete sentences for multiple offenses.

The Tennessee Supreme Court acknowledges that the US Supreme Court will be taking up this issue next Term in Oregon v. Ice, and the Allen opinion provides a nice primer on the debate that the SCOTUS Justices will have sort through.

June 24, 2008 at 04:02 PM | Permalink

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» A Precursor to Oregon v. Ice from Crime and Consequences
Hat tip to Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy for the post directing us to today's Supreme Court of Tennessee decision in State v. Allen, No. W2005-0285-SC-R11-CD. The decision, authored by Judge Cornelia Clark, addressed whether Tennessee's con... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2008 4:01:42 PM

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