The Biden administration is harmed by a new unanimous Supreme Court decision, which of course includes his nominee, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Friday, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that some individuals convicted of offenses involving firearms may have their sentences reduced. In certain instances, according to The Epoch Times, offenses related to firearms may be sentenced concurrently.
“Congress could certainly have designed the penalty scheme at issue here differently. But Congress did not do any of these things. And we must implement the design Congress chose,” Jackson penned in the decision.
The Epoch Times noted:
The case involves two subsections of 18 U.S.C. 924. Subsection (c) outlines offenses and penalties, and states that “no term of imprisonment imposed on a person under this subsection shall run concurrently with any other term of imprisonment imposed on the person.” Subsection (j), which was added more recently, outlines other offenses and corresponding penalties. It does not include language about forbidding concurrent sentences.
Frequently, district courts have the discretion to decide whether sentences should be served concurrently or consecutively. The publication added that certain regulations may make consecutive sentences unlawful in certain circumstances.
The initiator of the case, Efrain Lora, was found culpable of using or possessing a firearm while assisting drug trafficking or violent crime. Lora was also convicted guilty of conspiracy to distribute drugs.
In 2002, Lora and three accomplices killed a rival cocaine distributor in New York City as a consequence of a territorial dispute. According to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, Lora was sentenced based on a provision prohibiting consecutive sentences for acts that involve one of the offenses for which Lora was convicted. Lora received a 25-year sentence for the conspiracy allegation and an additional five years for the other offense. Eventually, an appeals court upheld the verdict.
In addition, Lora argued that the judge should not have sentenced him to consecutive terms because the law cited by the judge did not apply to offenses of aiding and abetting. In an appeal, federal prosecutors concurred with the lower courts’ decision and stated that the Supreme Court was not required to reconsider the case.
But Lora won the support of all nine justices.
“Subsection (c)’s consecutive-sentence mandate applies only to the terms of imprisonment prescribed within subsection (c). A sentence imposed under subsection (j) does not qualify,” Jackson wrote. “Subsection (j) is located outside subsection (c) and does not call for imposing any sentence from subsection (c).”
“Combining the two subsections would set them on a collision course; indeed, in some cases, the maximum sentence would be lower than the minimum sentence,” she added.
The decision resulted in the reversal of the sentence. The supreme court remanded the case to a subordinate court for a new sentencing hearing.
“We are thrilled that the Court preserved the longstanding default of discretion in criminal sentencing, restoring courts’ discretion to impose either concurrent or consecutive sentences in this case and others like it,” Lawrence Rosenberg, part of the legal team representing Lora, said in a statement to news outlets. “The Court’s decision to enforce the plain text that Congress enacted will help ensure that a defendant’s sentence fits both the crime and the individual.”
In the oral arguments, Jackson also expressed doubt.
“I don’t understand why the government believes in this case that it’s entitled to the penalty structure that comes with Section (c) if a person is convicted of (c) when (j) doesn’t say and it could easily have said any person who’s convicted of subsection (c), et cetera,” she told Assistant to the Solicitor General Erica Ross. “I think it is certainly true that Congress could have been clearer in this provision,”
Ross answered. “My point was simply that it also doesn’t say what [Lora] is suggesting.”