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Court ruling sends defendants back for new sentences

It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.
Derek Key
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.

The state Supreme Court has returned 85 criminal cases to lower courts for re-sentencing hearings. That’s because of a recent decision that changed the rules for sentencing defendants.

In August, the state Supreme Court struck down Michigan’s mandatory sentencing guidelines. It said the rules required judges to factor in crimes and evidence that were never proven in court, and that’s unconstitutional.

“Michigan’s mandatory guidelines violated defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial because their sentences were being increased based on facts that were not found by a jury or proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” says Mike Mittlestat, is an attorney with the State Appellate Defenders Office.

This the first wave of cases affected by that ruling.

The first step will be for judges to say whether they would have handed down different sentences without the mandatory rules.

“A judge can stop that whole process if he says or she says, I would not have imposed a materially different sentence,” says Mittlestat. “Then it’s over.”

Mittlestat says some defendants will get tougher sentences. Some will have their sentences reduced. And some will remain exactly the same.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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