Friday, January 13th, 2006

Never Mind — Good Anti-Harris Dicta Eliminated in Amended Opinion

United States v. Sheikh, Docket No. 05-1747-cr (2d Cir. Amended Jan. 13, 2006) (Sotomayor, Meskill, Kaplan (by desig’n)): When the Court issued the original version of this decision last week, we pointed out that it included dicta seemingly undercutting the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002). (Click here for our earlier discussion). As the Court originally stated, “So long as the facts found by the district court do not trigger a mandatory minimum sentence authorized by the verdict or increase the sentence beyond the statutory maximum authorized by the verdict, the district court does not violate a defendant’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by imposing a sentence based on facts not alleged in the indictment.” Op. at 4.

Alas, that anti-Harris dicta is no more. The Court today amends its decision to clarify that when it refered to “a mandatory minimum sentence,” it really meant “a mandatory minimum sentence that simultaneously raises a corresponding maximum.” Op. at 2 (emphasis added). This language brings Sheikh in line with the Circuit’s earlier decision in United States v. Gonzalez (click here for our discussion), holding that a fact that trigger a mandatory minimum that also raises a corresponding maximum must be proved to a jury or admitted by the defendant. This distinguishes it from Harris, in which the relevant fact (found only by the judge) triggered a mandatory minimum but did not alter the statutory maximum.

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