NYLJ: Second Circuit Overturns State’s Persistent Felony Offender Sentencing Law

Second Circuit Overturns State’s Persistent Felony Offender Sentencing Law

Joel Stashenko
New York Law Journal
April 01, 2010

A state statute that permits stiffer sentences for “persistent” felony offenders violates the constitutional rights of defendants to a jury trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today.

Citing a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, especially Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), a three-judge panel unanimously concluded the state scheme vested unconstitutionally broad discretion in judges to set sentences.

“We hold that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, applicable to the states as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the type of judicial fact-finding resulting in enhanced sentences under New York’s [Persistent Felony Offender statute,” Judge Ralph K. Winter wrote for the panel.

The circuit made its ruling today in five cases it heard arguments on at the same time on April 16, 2008: Besser v. Walsh, 05-4375-pr; Phillips v. Artus, 06-3550-pr; Portalatin v. Graham, 07-1599-pr; Morris v. Artus, 07-3588-pr; and Washington v. Poole, 07-3949-pr.

Read the entire NYLJ article here.