Tuesday, January 29, 2013

District Attorney Seeking Racial Justice in Texas

Months after North Carolina Judge Gregory Weeks commuted three more sentences under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act; there is a buzz in Dallas, Texas for advocating for similar legislation.  Craig Watkins, District Attorney for Dallas County, has voiced his intentions of meeting with the state legislature to discuss the possibility of passing a Racial Justice Act for Texas that would allow defendants to appeal convictions or sentences where race is believed to be a factor.  Watkins addressed the Associated Press, “Throughout history, race has unfortunately played a part, an ugly part, in our criminal justice system.  This is an opportunity for us to address not only the past, and those individuals who are still being affected by the disparities in treatment, but also in looking forward to make sure that we don’t have those same disparities in our criminal justice system.”[1]

Friday, January 25, 2013

United States v. Alleyne: Revisiting the Jury’s Role in Sentencing

On January 14, 2013, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one such case:  United States v. Alleyne,[1] a case about the role of juries in modern day sentencing.  At issue in this case specifically is whether the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt any fact that may be used to increase a defendant’s sentence beyond a mandatory minimum.  In criminal cases, even the most seemingly insignificant issues are big issues.  These cases can determine whether someone goes to jail, and for how long.  As such, criminal issues are frequently appealed up to the Supreme Court.