On Friday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Alleyne v. U.S. (docket 11-9335), which will consider the continued application of its decision in Harris v. U.S., 536 U.S. 545 (2002). Following the Court’s landmark decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000), the question arose whether judges or juries must find facts which increase a minimum (as opposed to a maximum) sentence. Harris held that only maximum sentences, not facts that raise the minimum, need be decided by a jury.
In Alleyne, the defendant had 84 months added to his sentenced after the trial judge found he would have known his accomplice would brandish a gun during the crime. Consistent with the Harris rule, the brandishing was a sentencing issue raising the minimum sentence, not a necessary element of the crime or an element raising the maximum sentence, and therefore not a jury factor.
The Alleyne petition argues that a strict distinction between maximum and mandatory minimum sentences cannot be reconciled with the rule of Apprendi that the Constitution’s indictment, jury, and proof guarantees apply to all ‘facts that increase the prescribed range of penalties to which a criminal defendant is exposed.”
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