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October 22, 2004

Arizona effort to keep Blakely in check

Continuing the trend of important state Blakely cases (see others here and here and here), an intermediate appellate court in Arizona issued an interesting ruling ysterday in State v. Miranda-Cabrera, 2004 WL 2359851 (Ariz.App. Div. 1, Oct. 21, 2004). The ruling in Miranda-Cabrera provides yet another example of a lower court finding various means and methods to keep the impact of Blakely somewhat controlled.

The defendant in Miranda-Cabrera argued that "the trial court violated Blakely in two different respects. First, it violated his Blakely rights by subjecting him to the enhanced sentencing range required by the dangerous crimes against children act without specific jury findings justifying that exposure, and second in finding certain aggravating factors in sentencing him to a mitigated sentence within that enhanced range." In a thoughtful and thorough (and contestable) opinion, the Arizona court found neither of these claims availing.

On the first issue, the court asserted that the facts admitted by the defendant in the course of his trial testimony "establish that Miranda-Cabrera's conduct was sufficiently directed at [the victim] to satisfy the 'targeting' requirement for this offense to constitute a dangerous crime against children." The court then explained that "[e]ven assuming that the facts admitted by the defendant in his testimony at trial are not sufficient to be facts 'admitted by the defendant' for sentencing purposes, it was harmless error in this circumstance for the judge to enhance Miranda-Cabrera's range of sentence without a separate and specific finding."

On the second issue, the court concluded it need not remand for resentencing merely because Miranda-Cabrera's sentence might have shorter if the trial court had not found certain aggravating factors to set off against mitigating factors when imposing sentence. The court asserted that Blakely was not violated because "the court's consideration of the sentencing factors did not result in the imposition of a sentence above that which the judge was entitled to impose based on 'the facts reflected in the jury verdict or admitted by the defendant.'" The court stressed that Blakely indicates that "the Sixth Amendment does not remove all discretion from the judge in sentencing" and that "indeterminate sentencing does not infringe on the province of the jury" in order to conclude that "whether the sentencing scheme is determinate or indeterminate, once the jury has found the facts necessary to impose a sentence within a statutory range, a judge may consider any additional sentencing factors in imposing a lesser sentence than the statute authorizes." Consequently, the court affirmed the defendant's sentence:

Because Miranda-Cabrera received a sentence in this case that was less than the sentence the judge could have imposed based solely on the facts found by the jury and admitted by Miranda-Cabrera, the trial court did not violate Miranda-Cabrera's constitutional rights pursuant to Blakely by finding additional aggravating factors in imposing a mitigated sentence.

October 22, 2004 at 10:25 AM | Permalink


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"...does not remove all discretion from the judge in sentencing." It is encouraging to see that the Government's interests are reflected in affirming that some discretion is still due our judges. This is a nice correction from the untenable positions taken against judges' discretion lately in issues like mandatory minimims. Maybe this crumb is indicative of a change in momentum. One can hope.

Posted by: Jeannie | Oct 22, 2004 2:35:18 PM

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