Alleyne vs. the United States

On June 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of   ALLEYNE vs. UNITED STATES, Case # 11–9335, in a 5-4 opinion, overruled the 2002 Supreme Court case of Harris v. United States, 536 U. S. 545, and in doing so held any mandatory minimum sentence that increase the penalty for a crime must be submitted to the jury for their determination of the actual sentence.

Here the jury form documented the defendant used or carried a firearm as part of his crime, but not that the firearm was brandished, which increased the penalty to a 7-year mandatory minimum sentence instead of the 5-year minimum. Even though his counsel objected because the verdict form was not correct and, therefore, violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, the District Court overruled the objection, by relying upon the case of Harris vs. United States. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Harris decision ruling it is permissible under the Sixth Amendment for judicial fact finding that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime. The Supreme Court overruled the Harris decision, vacated the judgment of the Fourth Circuit and remanded the case, holding brandishing is a fact that increases the prescribed range of penalties mandatory minimum sentence and as such is an element of a crime that must be submitted to the jury for its determination as to whether the prosecution proved that specific detail beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, if a judge intends to impose a higher sentence than the minimum mandatory penalty, he cannot do so unless the jury concludes the underlying legal conclusion is supported by a fact, which on turn is supported by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Read more here.

Wrongly Convicted Man “Truly Happy” After 14 Years in Prison

An Alameda County judge has overturned the conviction of an East Oakland man who served 14 years in prison for an attempted rape he did not commit. He spoke publicly for the first time.

Through the use of DNA, a team lawyers and students were able to prove that the 37-year-old was not guilty. The evidence showed that the DNA found on a 9-year-old’s T-shirt did not belong to the man. It was the DNA that led to his arrest in 1998.

Despite having served more than a decade in prison, the now free man expresses an eagerness to learn from previous experiences. Among his future endeavors, are the obtain employment and going to school.

The California man is the second innocent person to be exonerated this year.

Funding treatment for boy accused in murder at issue (Sam Spital)

“On September 25, 2012, the UT digital edition reported a 10 year old boy is accused of murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Apparently, another child tried to separate two neighborhood children who were in an altercation in which one was threatening the other with a knife; the fatal stabbing took place in a location adjacent to a mobile home park near El Cajon.

The criminal case was suspended by the Court due to the child offender being held mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Now, it is unclear what will take place because juvenile offenders are generally taken to Juvenile Hall, at the expense of their parents. Until the boy is deemed competent, however, he needs to be placed in a residential treatment facility as a result of the evaluations of two psychiatrists who claim he suffered from mental and developmental issues from fetal alcohol syndrome.

In the interim, the attorney for the boy charged with the above crimes is looking for funding.

The conundrum here is the lack of funding to treat individuals in society before they commit heinous crimes that later become a reality after a homicide, much like the unparalleled situation when the barn door gets closed when the horse gets out.

When will we as a society know we cannot spend too much money for the treatment of mental health issues? When will parents and others obtain education to identify and properly deal with symptoms that inevitably occur leading up to eventual improper &/or uncontrollable behavior (certainly we cannot allow the surge of criminality as we have seen in recent times)?

As a criminal defense attorney, I personally share the sadness of the victim’s family and the juvenile offender’s loved ones. But that grief is outweighed by a concern that society and our schools are not doing enough to identify and prevent the factors that lead to criminality.”

Sam Spital, Criminal Defense Lawyer