Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Blakely in Texas?

Doug Berman finds the money quote in a Texas Senate Research Center research brief (pdf) analyzing the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's Blakely ruling on Texas law. That landmark case found that only juries, not judges, could decide that certain enhancements should be applied during sentencing; it opened up to question many thousands of cases nationwide where judges had, by law, performed that role. In all, it's a highly complicated mess the Supreme Court hasn't fixed yet.

I'd said earlier on this blog that Texas' sentencing system was "clean" with regards to Blakely, but then I ran across this Texas Senate Research Center report from October that seemed to imply otherwise. Without reading it, I sent Prof. Berman the link, frankly, in a moment of intellectual cowardice; if Blakely turned out to apply to Texas, I just didn't want to have to be the one to wrap my brain around how! Thanks for bailing me out, Doc!

Bottom line, it mostly doesn't apply to our system but may, a little bit, in a few narrow circumstances. It doesn't sound like we're in for the turmoil they've had in other states or the federal system, though. I finally did read the report, by the way, and should add that Senate Research did a great job. They explained a complex situation quite thoroughly but in an understandable (dare I say readable?) fashion. Check it out. Then if you want more on the topic, comb through Prof. Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog for mountains of material on the Blakely case.