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.

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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.

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