Monday, August 02, 2004

Developments in the Courts

Michigan Supreme Court

A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Michigan announced in Claypool (available here), that Blakely did not affect the state's guideline regime.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly has recently dissented from a denial of a motion for reconsideration of an order from the court on July 1, 2004.

Justice Kelly’s dissent in People v. Couch, 2004 Mich. LEXIS 1685 (Mich., July 30, 2004) is short but noteworthy:

In his motion for reconsideration, defendant claims that the recent United States Supreme Court decision Blakely v Washington is applicable to Michigan's sentencing scheme. I would request full briefing and oral argument on the issue. It is jurisprudentially significant and affects this defendant as well as many others.

While a majority of this Court has already determined that Blakely is inapplicable, see People v Claypool, it did so in a footnote in a case where the issue was neither raised nor briefed. Given the significance of the issue, it should have the benefit of full briefing and oral argument.

Therefore, I would grant leave and direct the parties to address Blakely's applicability to Michigan's sentencing scheme in general and to this defendant's sentence in particular.

From the Federal courts

The Ninth Circuit issued a short, unpublished opinion in US v. Magana, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15759 (No. 98-10487)(9th Cir., July 29, 2004) last week.

Magana was charged with violating 21 USC 841, the primary federal drug statute. His indictment did not allege a drug quantity and the jury did not find the quantity of drug involved beyond a reasonable doubt. His sentence of 360 months, based on drug quantity findings by the judge, therefore, exceeded the 20 year statutory limit of 21 USC 841(b)(1)(c). Apprendi error was clear, the court noted, but the question now is whether resentencing is appropriate. The court says that it is.

In addition to mandating resentencing as a result of Ameline, the court notes in a footnote that “Ameline also dictates that we vacate the sentence enhancement for obstruction of justice imposed on Magana….”


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