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A Provisional Theory of the Constitutional Law, Article Critique Example

Pages: 2

Words: 652

Article Critique

Main Topic

The topic of the case can best be summarized in title of this document which is given at the start of this exercise. The case examines function and formalism (Pound, 2002). Function examines whether our legal system allows leeway given to the judge in a case. Formalism is really a legislative function in which the people in a democracy expect sentencing without enhancement. The enhancement normally extends the length of an offender’s sentence and can be done without admitting further facts to a jury.

Case Summary

The state of Washington had a mandatory sentencing structure in place. Based on the charges pending, Blakely was given a shorter sentence. Based on his history of violence, the judge extended the sentence by imposing penalties based on a higher, but similar, charge. Blakely sued and the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court found that the defendant’s sixth amendment rights had been violated (Bowman III, 2004). The sixth amendment says that a defendant, in addition to a speedy trial, has the right to have evidence presented to a jury of his or her peers. Blakely, in an apparent fit of rage—having had a violent temper most of his life—kidnapped his wife by sealing her in a wooden box. He ordered his son to follow him and his wife. The son broke free and notified local authorities. Blakely was charged with Kidnapping Two, which carried a shorter period of incarceration that did Kidnapping One. In an effort to keep Blakely incarcerated for a longer period of time, Blakely accepted a plea deal charging him with Kidnapping Two including a longer sentence.

The judge on the case changed the kidnapping charge to charge the defendant with Kidnapping One, a more heinous charge. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that in mandatory sentencing charges the legal system is formal, e.g. the legislature determines the length of the incarceration, not the trial judge.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Article

The article examines the findings of the U.S. Supreme Court. The most important part of the findings suggests that if the trial judge can only act as an arbitrator administering sentences according to legislative mandates, the judge no longer participates in the incarceration proceedings. This being the result, various states who have participated in or which are currently working on the establishment of mandatory sentencing, need to rework their guidelines.

The U.S. Supreme Court also determined that when a defendant receives a period of incarceration based on a lesser crime, the trial judge should not be allowed to upgrade the charge purely for sentencing purposes. Any discrepancy between lower and higher charges means the defendant should have those additional charges presented in evidence to a jury of his or her peers. For instance, Blakely was given a period of incarceration for Kidnapping Two. The judge raised the charge to Kidnapping Two without evidence between the parameters the lower and the higher charges. The newest testimony, if it is to be allowed for sentencing purposes must first be submitted to a jury who will hear the new evidence.

Student’s Thoughts

There are two sides to every coin. If we examine the rights guaranteed to each defendant we can ensure that each arrestee will be guaranteed his day in court, as guaranteed under the sixth amendment. Sentences can longer just simply be assigned without the due process clause. The other side of the coin is that as more cases go to court for all kinds of reasons, our courts are being overloaded. There is more of a requirement for additional judges as well as for additional court personnel (bailiffs, minute clerks, and who staffs of assorted record-keeping personnel).

References

Bowman III, F. 2002. Function over formalism: A provisional theory of the constitutional law of crime and punishment.  Los Angeles, CA: Federal Sentencing Reporter 17(1), October 2004.

Pound, R. (2002). The ideal element in law. (ed. Stephen Presser). The collection of papers of Roscoe Pound. Indianapolis, IN: The Liberty Fund.

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