Supreme Court rules for sex offender case testing power of judges, juries
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that even sex offenders deserve to have the reasons for their sentences determined by a jury, not a judge.
The justices ruled 5-4 that a federal law requiring sex offenders to return to prison based on a judge’s new findings is unconstitutional. Supreme Court precedent gives juries, not judges, the power to determine criminal conduct.
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of President Donald Trump’s two nominees on the court, wrote the opinion and was joined by the court’s four liberal justices – for the fourth time this term.
“A jury must find every fact that is essential to an individual’s punishment,” Gorsuch said. In the case before the court, the accused received “a new prison term based instead only on facts found by a judge by a mere preponderance of the evidence.”
It was a victory for Andre Hammond, an Oklahoma man sentenced in 2010 to more than three years in prison on child pornography charges. In 2015, a judge found him guilty of violating his supervised release and tacked on five more years in prison.
The question before the justices: Can a judge, rather than a jury, decide what facts merit a new sentence?
Four conservative justices said yes. In their dissent, Justice Samuel Alito accused the decision by Gorsuch and his liberal allies of “laying the groundwork for later decisions of much broader scope” and “revolutionary implications.”
Read full article here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/26/supreme-court-rules-sex-offender-child-pornography-case/1564204001/
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