This little story has so many interesting elements, I could imagine structuring an entire seminar focused on the question about whether this case vindicates or eviscerates the constitutional principles developed in Apprendi and Blakely.
If we think the most important constitutional principles of Apprendi and Blakely concern ensuring that a jury of peers, rather than just an "elite" judge, be involved in determining sentencing outcomes, then one might conclude that these Sixth Amendment interests were vindicated in this case. But I tend to read Blakely and especially Apprendi as expressing concerns about sentences being increased based on facts not found by traditional due process standards.
I suspect that at least some members of the Apprendi and Blakely majorities would be troubled by how Prieto got a life sentence. Moreover, I suspect even some members of the Apprendi and Blakely dissents might be a bit worried as to whether Fifth Amendment due process interests were fully served here (especially if Prieto did not get advance notice that his sentencing on the aggravated robbery conviction was going to be a essentially a trial and sentencing on his daughter's allegations of rape). And, of course, three members (and soon to be four) members of the current Supreme Court were not Justices at the time of Apprendi and Blakely and thus we can only speculate about what they may think about how Prieto got a life sentence here.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Issues surrounding Lubbock case could fill a law school seminar
Knowing there were implications regarding federal sentencing litigation over the last few years, I forwarded Doug Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy a link to a remarkable Lubbock case where a jury yesterday sentenced a defendant to life for assault on an elderly man, based largely on alleged crimes raised in the punishment phase (including child molestation) for which he'd never been found guilty. Berman's take: