Friday :: Jun 25, 2004

Stop! In The Name Of Law!

by pessimist

I just can't figure out the Supremes - the ones that think they are the ultimate arbitors o'er the law, not the singers. One day they do the bidding of the Bush (mis)Administration as if they are on commission, the next they slam the door on the fingers of the fascists:

Jury Role In Raising Sentences Affirmed

A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled yesterday that only juries, not judges, may increase criminal sentences beyond the maximums suggested by statutory guidelines, a decision that throws into doubt sentencing procedures used by nine states and possibly the federal government.

The only question I have is: will this decision be applied to those in Guantanamo and US troops in Iraq?

Scalia noted that the court's ruling does not necessarily apply to the federal guidelines, which were not directly at issue in the case.

Oh - I should have known there would be exemptions.

The court said the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a jury trial in felony cases means that any facts that would result in a sentence above the range of sentences specifically mentioned in the law must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. "When a judge inflicts a punishment that the jury's verdict alone does not allow . . . the judge exceeds his proper authority," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.

This is a joke, right? A Psy-op? Nino the Nazi, the appointer of pResidents, coming out in favor of limiting the authority of judges???? What is this, a 'gotcha' plot for reality TV?

But in a separate case yesterday, the court limited the impact of that ruling by declaring that it would not apply retroactively.

I KNEW there would be a catch-22! Nino the Nazi is big on special conditions when inventing the law. Remember that his deciding vote to anoint George Warmonger Bush as Owwer Leedur was a one-time deal, never to be repeated, as it was not to be considered as a precedent.

So how do the other justices feel about this ruling?

In a strongly worded dissenting opinion, which she read from the bench in what was, for her, an unusual display of disagreement with the majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said that "the practical consequences of today's decision may be disastrous."

Oh-oh! If Sandra woke up flexing her flabby outrage, something really serious is afoot!

"If defendants asserted the right this decision gives them, a very large fraction of the sentences in federal criminal cases and probably a sizable number of criminal cases in states with state sentencing guidelines would be unconstitutional," said William J. Stuntz, a professor of law at Harvard University who specializes in criminal issues.

That won't make John the AsssssKKKRoft very happy!

O'Connor and a fellow dissenter, Stephen G. Breyer -- who participated in drafting the federal sentencing guidelines before joining the Supreme Court -- predicted that the cost to the states of complying with the court's ruling would spell the end of sentencing reform.

"If the choice is between adopting a balanced case-by-case approach that takes into consideration the values underlying the Bill of Rights as well as the history of a particular sentencing reform law, and adopting a rigid rule that destroys everything in its path, I will choose the former," she wrote.

Sure would have been nice if she had been so forthcoming in December of 2000!

"The simple fact is that the design of any fair sentencing system must involve efforts to make practical compromises among competing goals," Breyer wrote. "The majority's reading of the Sixth Amendment makes the effort to find those compromises -- already difficult -- virtually impossible."

Which would make it easier for Owwer Leedur to declare that from now on, all of those apprehended by the State for any reason will be punished by beheading (Hey! It's the in thing to do lately!) and we'll just assume they were guilty.

In response to Breyer, Scalia wrote that "our decision cannot turn on whether or to what degree trial by jury impairs the efficiency or fairness of criminal justice."

Like Nino the Nazi knows from fairness!

"The framers would not have thought it too much to demand that, before depriving a man of three more years of his liberty, the State should suffer the modest inconvenience of submitting its accusation to [a jury] rather than a lone employee of the state," Scalia wrote.

That didn't seem to apply to the poor slobs in Camp X-Ray or Abu Ghraib!

His opinion was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter.

Now there is a strange flock of legal bedfellows if I ever saw one.

I've been over this numerous times trying to figure it all out. Maybe this means that the Supremes aren't too clear on what they are doing either.

Would you trust YOUR Constitution to this bunch?

pessimist :: 8:26 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!