Supreme Court on Monday agreed to organize in favor of a defendant who has petitioned for an enhanced sentencing. Agree, Judge Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor said the court should have gone further.
In Wood etc. USA, William Dale wooden was facing a minimum sentence of 15 years under a controversy and Heavy litigation legislation known as the Armed Occupational Crime Act (ACCA) after conviction federal prohibition against gun felonies.
Maximum sentence below Basic Federal Regulations 10 years in prison but improving the period of the War on Drugs promises at least five additional years in prison for an inmate convicted of a violent crime “perpetrated on different occasions.”
In 1997, Wooden and three others broke into a warehouse and made their way through a total of 10 different units by breaking through the drywall between each unit. They were eventually arrested and the defendant indicted in a single indictment, on 10 different counts of burglary, under Georgia law. Wood pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 eight-year prison sentences that a judge allowed him to serve concurrently.
Justice Elena Kagan explain what has led to the current dispute:
Fast-forward now to a cold November morning in 2014, when Wooden responds to a knock on the door of a police officer. The officer asked to speak to Wooden’s wife. And noticing the cold in the air, the officer asked if he could step inside to keep warm. Wood agreed. But his good deed went unpunished. After entering the house, the officer discovered several guns. Knowing that Wooden was a felony, the officer placed him in custody. A grand jury later found him guilty of possession of a firearm, a violation of 18 USC §922(g).
Initially, the government’s probation office recommended a relatively light sentence of 21 to 27 months in prison. They then changed course and switched to ACCA – which entailed at least 15 years in prison for possession of the guns in question. In the end, a district court judge sentenced Wood to 188 months in prison, or nearly 16 years in prison.
Defendant argued unsuccessfully in district court, and subsequently appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, that his 10 burglaries were committed in a single attempt, instead of ” on different occasions.” As a result of the debate, whether ACCA should apply to his case means the difference between about 13 years behind bars.
Noting the split on the issue, the country’s supreme court decided to consider the matter of the ACCA’s disputed “occasions” clause. And, in a rather brief opinion piece, only 15 pages long, the court said that the night of the theft of 10 separate warehouses from Wooden was, legally, a one-time crime. Best.
Kagan explained why this case was easy for the court:
Here, all relevant considerations show that Wood stole ten storage units in a single pass, even though his criminal activity resulted in a double-digit conviction. Wood carried out his thefts in a single night, in an uninterrupted process. The crimes all took place in one location, the warehouse contained one court and one address. Each offense is essentially identical, and all interwoven with others. The thefts were part and parcel of the same scheme, carried out by the same motive and carried out by the same method. Indeed, each burglary in some sense facilitated the next, as Wooden moved from unit to unit, all in succession. And reflecting all of these facts, Georgia law considers burglaries to be closely related. Because they “ar[ose] from the same act, “the prosecutor must charge all ten in a single indictment.”
Opinion offers a multifactorial test that is intended to provide guidance to lower courts in determining whether ACCA applies. In his concurrence, Gorsuch complained the test provided “little guidance” but Kagan replied, in the footnote, that the test was provided by Congress and that the test was often ignored because ““ categorical rule that consecutive violations always occur on occasions”—a rule that all nine judges disagreed with. Notably, Sotomayor declined to join Gorsuch in his thoughts on the multifactor test.
Agreeing with the ruling, Gorsuch and Sotomayor agree that courts should be willing to apply the doctrine of so-called “clemency rules” in cases that are not as “obvious” or as easy as Wooden’s.
“’The ‘rule of leniency’ is a new name for an old idea — the notion that ‘criminal laws should be understood rigorously,'” concurs note, before delving into history. of the doctrine and its specific use in early American justice, the system viz. “upholds the Constitution’s commitments to due process and separation of powers.”
Over time, however, Gorsuch noted, federal courts have eliminated the application of the doctrine and avoided using clemency by creating various self-imposed barriers.
Consensus argues that such limitations “are not derived from any well-considered theory of leniency or the mainstream of this Court’s opinions,” and advised that the judges Federal judges should be more willing to rule in favor of criminal defendants in the face of “unclear cases.” to protect constitutionally protected liberal interests.
“Where traditional statutory interpretation tools do not provide clear answers, the judge’s next step is not legislative history or the unresolved purposes of the law.” Gorsuch said. “The next step is an agreement.”
Consent to reformist thought ends with a lengthy footnote that argues and makes the point that a jury trial (and continuing litigation) is lurking just beneath the logic of thought. Kagan’s ant.
Again, Gorsuch, for length:
A constitutional question arises beneath the surface of today’s case. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments generally require the government in criminal cases to prove all the facts essential to an individual’s punishment to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, however, only the judges found circumstances relevant to Mr. Wood’s punishment under the Occasion Clause, and they did so only with the precedence of the standard of evidence. Because Mr. Wooden made no constitutional challenge to his sentence, the Court did not consider the correctness of this practice. But there is little doubt that we will have to do so soon. And it’s hard not to wonder: If a jury has to find facts that support a penalty under the Occasion beyond a reasonable doubt, how can the judges apply it? a penalty without equal certainty as to the application of the law to those facts?
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https://lawandcrime.com/supreme-court/justices-gorsuch-and-sotomayor-suggest-federal-courts-should-go-easier-on-criminal-defendants-in-unanimous-sentencing-enhancement-case/ Gorsuch and Sotomayor Concur in Armed Crime Action Case