innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sentences in doubt



The Supreme Court rejected federal sentencing guidelines today, likely forcing the courts to reconsider the sentences of thousands of inmates. Previously, judges were forced to tack years onto sentences based on outside factors that were never proven in court. Now, it appears a jury must first consider everything.

In one of the cases before the court, a jury found Ducan Fanfan guilty of intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. He faced 5-6 years in prison. But the judge decided that Fanfan was a gang leader and boosted the sentence to 15-16 years under the federal guidelines. The Supreme Court ruled factors increasing any sentence beyond the maximum must be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court had already struck down a state sentencing system for giving judges too much leeway. The 64,000 people sentenced in the federal system each year will now face the same standard.

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