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December 28, 2006

Two notable prior conviction rulings from the land of Blakely

A helpful reader has altered me to two significant rulings today from the Washington State Supreme Court about the scope of the "prior conviction" exception to the Apprendi-Blakely rule.  Here is her report:

1. Washington v. Jones, No. 76900-1 (Wash. Dec. 28, 2006) (available here) (7-2 decision):  The Washington State Court of Appeals "reversed the trial courts, holding that under Blakely v. Washington and Apprendi v. New Jersey, the jury, rather than the sentencing judge, must find that the defendant was on community placement before the sentencing judge may add a point to the offender score. We [the Washington State Supreme Court] granted review and conclude that because community custody is directly related to and follows from the fact of a prior conviction and that the attendant factual determinations involve nothing more than a review of the nature of the defendant's criminal history and the defendant's offender characteristics, such a determination is properly made by the sentencing judge. Therefore, we reverse the Court of Appeals and uphold the sentences imposed on Jones and Thomas."

2. Washington v. Weber, No. 77395-5, (Wash. Dec. 28, 2006) (available here) (5-4 decision): "We hold that prior juvenile adjudications fall under the 'prior conviction' exception in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 490 (2000) and are not facts that a jury must find under Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004)."

As the dissents in both cases highlight, neither of these two rulings are obvious applications of the "prior conviction" exception.  And, of course, Justice Thomas believes that the "prior conviction" exception ought to be eliminated altogether.  For these reasons, these two cases might make for interesting cert vehicles if the Supreme Court is prepared to return in this part of Apprendi-land.

This category archive has a lot more on the "prior conviction" exception and its validity and scope.

December 28, 2006 at 01:39 PM | Permalink


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"the attendant factual determinations involve nothing more than a review of ... the defendant's offender characteristics..."

I wonder, Prof. Berman, is the WA Supreme Court showing its agreement with your scholarship on the distinction between offense and offender characteristics?

Posted by: DEJ | Dec 28, 2006 4:11:58 PM

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