08 January 2016

SCOTUS To Resolve Nine-Way Split On Retroactivity Of Previous Sentencing Ruling

Taking on a case that potentially may lead to the release of hundreds — and maybe more — prison inmates, the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon agreed to consider extending to earlier, closed cases its ruling last June in Johnson v. United States. A key factor in the Court’s review could be that the Justice Department now takes the position that Johnson should apply retroactively. 
Defense lawyers have said that at least hundreds of inmates have already served the maximum sentence that would now be allowed under the Johnson case, but remain in prison under longer sentences, so a decision applying that precedent to them would lead to their prompt release. The question of the retroactivity of that ruling on enhanced sentencing has resulted in a nine-way split among federal appeals courts. 
The new case is Welch v. United States; it will be argued in March.
From SCOTUS blog.

In Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court held that part of the Armed Career Criminals Act used to determine if a person convicted of a crime was subject to enhanced mandatory minimum sentences for recidivist offenders based upon their prior criminal record was unconstitutionally vague, after several prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings that had tried to clarify the meaning of the statute merely resulted in more splits of authority over which state court convictions counted for purposes of the Armed Career Criminals Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court didn't say in its Johnson opinion if its decision was retroactive, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals have been remarkably inventive in finding different answers to this question resulting is an almost unprecedented split of authority on the question that has left the U.S. Courts of Appeals on appeal

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