Federal Judges Overriding Juries Via Sentencing: Only Three Supremes Troubled

In rejecting a petition to review a case that stemmed from a small drug deal, the U.S. Supreme Court left standing an 18-year prison sentence evidently grounded in the conspiracy charges that were specifically rejected by the jury. The three justices favoring review by the court were Scalia, Ginsburg, and Thomas. They argued in their dissent that it is unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment for criminal defendants to serve “unreasonably” long sentences based on facts accepted solely by a judge, but not the jury.

Do the Sentencing Guidelines afford judges too much room to heap many years onto a sentence for a relatively lesser offense where the jury rejected the more serious charges?

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