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October 2, 2010

Effective review of the five new SCOTUS criminal justice cases

As noted in this prior post, this past week the US Supreme Court accepted five new criminal cases for its upcoming Term.  This article in the Wisconsin Law Journal, headlined "High court accepts five criminal cases," reviews the group.  Here is the article's coverage of the two sentencing cases:

[T]he court will decide whether a federal judge has the authority to reduce a federal criminal sentence after the U.S. Sentencing Commission amended the Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine, if the judge had already accepted a plea deal with the defendant, in Freeman v. United States, No. 09-10245.  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to answer this question, reviewing a decision from the 6th Circuit which held that case law precluded modification of a sentence imposed pursuant to a plea deal.

In that case, the defendant was charged with one count of crack possession, among other charges. He entered a plea agreement that included a sentence of 106 months.  After his agreement was accepted by the trial judge and his sentence was entered, the U.S. Sentencing Commission amended the Sentencing Guidelines to reduce the disparity in the treatment of crack and powder cocaine, and made the amendment retroactive.  The defendant then sought to reduce his sentence accordingly.

But a U.S. District Court refused to do so, and the 6th Circuit affirmed.  “[T]he district court did not indicate that failing to resentence [the defendant] resulted in a miscarriage of justice. … [The defendant's] original 106-month sentence remained inside the guidelines range for his crime, even after the amendment,” the court said.  His 106-month sentence fell at the bottom of the range before the amendment and at the top of the range after the amendment, it noted....

[In another] case, arising within the Seventh Circuit, the court will decide whether a conviction for resisting arrest counts as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act, in Sykes v. U.S., No. 09-11311.  The Seventh Circuit concluded it was, finding that eluding a police officer is “purposeful, violent and aggressive.”  U.S. v. Sykes, No. 08-3624 (7th Cir., Mar. 12, 2010).

October 2, 2010 at 10:07 AM | Permalink


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After reading the description of the confrontation case I am even more certain that it is actually an important matter. To claim that the analyst who performs the tests at issue here does nothing other than write down the resulting numbers verges on dishonesty.

Perhaps that could be said for a trucking scale master, but only insofar as that person has no responsibility for maintaining the scales.

But as soon as the person making the report performs any work to prepare the machine or material being tested I simply fail to see how having someone else who was not present when the test was performed is an adequate substitute. Hopefully Scalia can convince four other members of the Court that the alternative path is madness.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 2, 2010 8:26:14 PM

I am a defense attorney in North Carolina. I recently argued a case with the exact same issues as is presented in Sykes at the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The judges were quite clear that they were in no rush to render a decision in our matter, until they had a chance to be guided by the decision in Sykes. It will be very interesting to see how the Supreme Court rules in the Sykes case. There has been a noticeable split in the various Federal Circuits. There have been opposite results on similarly structured state statutes making it almost impossible to know how the law should be applied. Whether or not the ACCA can be applied has become a decision based upon where you committed your crime, rather than being uniformly applied. I hope that the Supreme Court not only rules that eluding arrest with a motor vehicle (in it's various forms) is not a violent felony, but I hope that they do so in the same manner as they did in Begay and effectively end the debate permanently.

I have just encountered your blog, but I am enjoying it. By the way, have you any idea when Sykes will be heard? I know cert. was granted on 9.28, but I can't find anywhere that identifies when they will actually hear that case. If you can direct my attention anywhere to that information, please do!

Posted by: Josiah Corrigan | Nov 2, 2010 10:58:06 PM

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