WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court asked federal courts yesterday to reconsider sentences for hundreds of defendants who contend they were wrongly punished under a sentencing system the court declared unconstitutional earlier this month.
Justices instructed the lower courts to review more than 400 appeals from defendants sentenced for crimes ranging from drug possession to securities fraud. They had argued that judges had improperly boosted their sentences based on factors that had not come before the jury during trial.
The court ruled Jan. 12 the federal guidelines violated a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial because the guidelines required judges to make factual decisions that affect prison time -- i.e., the amount of drugs involved in a crime. The guidelines are no longer mandatory but advisory.