Charlie Buttrey

June 29, 2019

In 2010, Andre Haymond was convicted of possessing child pornography and sentenced to 38 months in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. He was also required to register as a sex offender. While out on parole, Haymond was found in possession of child pornography, and a federal judge, relying on a provision in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, sent Haymond back to prison for five more years for violating the terms of his supervised release. Haymond appealed, arguing that he had a constitutional right to have his sentence determined by a jury, rather than a judge, beyond a reasonable doubt.

On Wednesday, a divided Supreme Court sided with Haymond.

As has been the case in several end-of-term decisions, the 5-4 decision did not split along traditional ideological lines, as Trump appointee Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, in which liberal justices Kagan, Sotomayor and Ginsberg joined (the other liberal justice, Justice Breyer, wrote a separate opinion concurring in the holding).

And Gorsuch used surprisingly strong language is chastising the four justices who dissented, writing:

“In the end, the dissent is left only to echo an age-old criticism: Jury trials are inconvenient for the government. Yet like much else in our Constitution, the jury system isn’t designed to promote efficiency but to  protect liberty. In what now seems a prescient passage, Blackstone warned that the true threat to trial by jury would come less from ‘open attacks,’
which ‘none will be so hardy as to make,’ as from subtle ‘machinations,  which may sap and undermine i[t] by introducing new and arbitrary methods.’ This Court has repeatedly sought to guard the historic role of the jury against such incursions. For ‘however convenient these may appear at first, (as doubtless all arbitrary powers, well executed, are  the most convenient) yet let it be again remembered, that delays, and little  inconveniences in the forms of justice, are the price that all free nations  must pay for their liberty in more substantial matters.'”

© 2019 Charlie Buttrey Law by Nomad Communications