Supreme Court Weighs Overturning Sentencing Precedent
The Supreme Court appeared narrowly divided on Monday on whether to overrule an 11-year-old precedent that lets judges, rather than juries, conduct fact-finding that could result in longer minimum sentences.
A review of the 2002 decision, Harris v. U.S., came in one of two cases heard by the court involving the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment.
The Supreme Court does not often overrule a precedent, even if current justices question its reasoning, and especially when a new approach could disrupt legislatures and courts that have relied on it for years and built law around it.
Monday’s first case concerned Allen Alleyne, who was convicted by a jury of robbery and firearms possession in the 2009 robbery of a convenience store in Richmond, Virginia.
Alleyne faced a minimum of five years in prison On the firearms charge, or seven years if a gun was brandished.
Jurors found Alleyne not guilty of brandishing a gun, on the grounds that there was reasonable doubt that he had. But the judge concluded otherwise, using the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof.