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.
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