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November 2, 2004

More notable Blakely cases from Minnesota

With thanks to a correspondent from the field, I can report on two more noteworthy Blakely cases from Minnesota's courts of appeals. (Some of the previous reports on Minnesota Blakely caselaw developments can be found here and here.)

In State v. Fairbanks, A04-983 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2004), the court reversed an upward departure sentence over a series of arguments by the government that Blakely should not benefit defendant Fairbanks. The state argued "that Blakely does not apply to Fairbanks’s sentence because (1) the Washington guidelines, unlike Minnesota’s, are legislatively rather than administratively determined; (2) Fairbanks waived his right to be sentenced by a jury when he submitted his case on stipulated evidence; and (3) Fairbanks is not entitled to the benefit of the Blakely holding." The court directly rejected each of these contentions:

The district court violated appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial by imposing an upward departure on his kidnapping sentence based on judicially found facts. Fairbanks did not knowingly waive his right to have a jury determine those facts, and he is entitled to relief even though he did not object in the district court on constitutional grounds. Accordingly, we vacate Fairbanks’s sentence and remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

In State v. Saue, A04-983 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2004), the court likewise reversed a sentence on Blakely grounds, this time upsetting an "executed sentence of 60 months, which represented an upward dispositional departure and a quintuple upward durational departure from the presumptive stayed sentence of a year and a day." In a lengthy and thoughtful opinion, the Saue court rejects a series of arguments by the state to avoid applying Blakely to Minnesota's guidelines system and concludes that " the imposition of an upward durational departure based on judicial findings here violated appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial."

However, in Saue, the court goes on to conclude that "Blakely does not apply to dispositional departures imposed under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines" because this determination involves "an open-ended examination of individual offender characteristics ... [that are] based on facts far removed from the offense elements reflected in that verdict." Thus, in sum, the Saue court is holding that the "imposition of an upward durational departure based on judicial findings violated appellant’s Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury [but the] upward dispositional departure did not violate appellant’s jury-trial right."

November 2, 2004 at 05:24 PM | Permalink


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I have just received a call from my
son, who is currently serving federal
time, that the Ninth Circuit is
currently correcting sentences due to
Blakely. The men have
received letters (which they have
shown to my son) that their sentence
has been reduced.

Posted by: Barb | Nov 2, 2004 6:28:42 PM

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