Blakely v. Washington

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Blakely v. Washington

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued March 23, 2004

Decided June 24, 2004

Full case name: Ralph Howard Blakely, Jr. v. Washington
Citations: 124 S. Ct. 2531; 159 L. Ed. 2d 403; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4573; 72 U.S.L.W. 4546; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 430
Prior history: defendant sentenced, Washington Superior Court, Grant County, 11-13-00; affirmed, 47 P.3d 149 (Wash. App. 2002); review denied, 62 P.3d 889 (Wash. 2003); certiorari granted, 540 U.S. 965 (2003)
Subsequent history: rehearing denied, 125 S. Ct. 21 (2004)
Holding
The State of Washington's criminal sentencing system violated the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, because it gave judges the ability to increase sentences based on their own determination of facts. Judgment of Washington Court of Appeals reversed and case remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice: William Rehnquist
Associate Justices: John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority by: Scalia
Joined by: Stevens, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg
Dissent by: O'Connor
Joined by: Breyer; joined by Rehnquist and Kennedy except as to Part IV-B
Dissent by: Kennedy
Joined by: Breyer
Dissent by: Breyer
Joined by: O'Connor
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Amend. VI; Washington Sentencing Reform Act

Blakely v. Washington 124 S.Ct. 2531 (2004) was a United States Supreme Court decision. The Court ruled, 5-4, that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prohibited judges from enhancing criminal sentences based on facts other than those decided by the jury or confessed to by the defendant.

Case background

The case involved the sentencing of Ralph Blakely, Jr., a man who had pled guilty to kidnapping his estranged wife in Grant County, Washington. The Washington state Sentencing Reform Act required standard sentences according to statutory guidelines unless the judge found "aggravating circumstances." In Blakely's case, the judge found, independently of what Blakely had confessed to, that he had acted with "deliberate cruelty." The judge raised Blakely's standard sentence of 53 months up to 90.

Blakely appealed his sentence in state court as a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge's determination and the Washington Supreme Court denied discretionary review. Blakely was then granted review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the Washington Court of Appeals and remanded Blakely's sentence for a redetermination and reduction by the Washington courts. The Court's ruling also had the effect of invalidating sentencing schemes such as the Washington Sentencing Reform Act, that give judges the power to increase sentences based on facts not confessed to nor found by a jury.

The court's opinion extended the scope of the Apprendi decision, in requiring jury determination of aggravating circumstances that increased a sentence, even when the sentence was within the statutory limits for the unaggravated offense.

External Links

Text of opinion from Findlaw.com (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=02-1632)

Court denies rehearing in Blakely case (http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/1047270)

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