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SCOTUS decision in a gun case today

terraformer

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No, not that gun case....

http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/05/m...year-mandatory-minimum-is-element-of-offense/
Machinegun provision with thirty-year mandatory minimum is element of offense

On Monday, the Court unanimously held that the machinegun provision of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(B)(ii), which imposes a thirty-year mandatory minimum sentence when the firearm used in certain crimes is a machinegun, is an element of the offense that must be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than a sentencing factor to be proved to the judge at sentencing. [You can read Leif Overvold’s preview of the case and recap of oral argument here and here.]

It's a due process case at it's core but it bodes well for due process challenged laws like our wonderful new dangerousness statutes here in the PRM. The entire court, including those who believe we have no 2A rights, voted unanimously to force a jury to decide the facts of a case involving machine gun use in a crime before the person can be hit with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years.

The case arose out of an attempted armed robbery by three men, Martin O’Brien, Arthur Burgess, and Dennis Quirk, two of whom are respondents in the case as it comes to the Court. At their trial in federal court, there was a dispute regarding the guns that the defendants carried during the crime, and specifically one in particular, a pistol which, the FBI later determined, had been modified to function as a fully automatic weapon. The government charged possession of the pistol in two counts under Section 924(c): Count Three charged use of a firearm in a crime of violence, while Count Four specifically charged use of a machinegun under Section 924(c)(1)(B)(ii). Before trial, the district judge held that firearm type was an element of an aggravated offense, such that the thirty-year mandatory minimum could only be imposed if machinegun status were charged separately. Because the government conceded that it could not prove the defendants knew the pistol was a machinegun, it dropped Count Four, and the defendants pled guilty to the remaining charges, including Count Three. At sentencing, the government renewed its claim that firearm type was a sentencing factor, but the court again rejected the argument and found that the defendants were not subject to the thirty-year mandatory minimum.

The high court agreed with the sentencing judge that the perps in this case should not be bound to a 30 min mandatory sentence just because the .gov says so. They have to prove that the gun is a machine gun to a jury. It's the way it should be, but it is always nice to note that this court is not letting the word "machine gun" cause it epileptic seizures and make dumb decisions.
 
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This is a good ruling, though it in some respects goes counter to their ruling in US v. Comstock recently (IMO) whereby they have granted the Federal government the authority to write laws that allow them to hold "dangerous" prisoners indefinitely without due process.

Now if only more jurors were informed jurors... http://fija.org/
 

terraformer

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This is a good ruling, though it in some respects goes counter to their ruling in US v. Comstock recently (IMO) whereby they have granted the Federal government the authority to write laws that allow them to hold "dangerous" prisoners indefinitely without due process.

Now if only more jurors were informed jurors... http://fija.org/

I agree that comstock sucks, but at least there they had a conviction to work from.
 

RKG

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Not really news, and little (if anything) to do with guns. The question of whether a fact that goes to sentence enhancement is an element of the offense (and thus must be instructed to and found by jury, versus found by judge at time of sentencing) has arisen recently in a host of unrelated contexts.
 
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