In another of her impressive opinions on sentencing issues, Judge Gertner has issued a Sentencing Memorandum in United States v. Malouf, No. 03-cr-10298-NG (D.Mass. June 14, 2005). The first few paragraphs read as follows:
This case is about the interpretation of an important federal drug distribution statute, 21 U.S.C. § 841, under which the defendant Michael Malouf (“Malouf”) was indicted. Section 841 creates a staircase of sentences, with steep increases at each step – statutory maximums up to life imprisonment and mandatory minimums that increase from five, to ten, and to twenty years. Where the defendant is situated on this sentencing staircase depends upon the type and quantity of drugs involved, whether the defendant has a prior felony drug conviction, and whether death or bodily injury resulted from the offense.
The interpretation of the statute is complicated by recent changes in Supreme Court sentencing law, embodied by Blakely v. Washington, 124 S. Ct. 2531 (2004), United States v. Booker, 125 S. Ct. 738 (2005), and Shepard v. United States, 125 S. Ct. 1254 (2005). This law substantially impacts the application of each factor in the statute - in particular, prior convictions (implicating Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224 (1998)), bodily injury (implicating Jones v. United States, 526 U.S. 227 (1999), and drug quantity - that increases the statutory maximum penalty (implicating Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000)), and/or the mandatory minimums (implicating Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002)). The question is whether, as the Supreme Court’s decisional law has changed, the interpretation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 should likewise change.
Specifically, the sentencing of Michael Malouf raises the following questions: (1) Do the drug quantities outlined in 21 U.S.C. § 841 comprise elements of offenses, or sentencing factors? If the former, the relevant case is Apprendi, a jury trial is required and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt; if the latter, it is Harris, drug quantity can be determined by a judge, and the standard is a fair preponderance of the evidence. (2) What is the continued efficacy of Harris in the light of the Court’s rulings in Blakely and Booker? (3) What is a district court to do when the First Circuit’s interpretation of § 841 relies on Supreme Court precedent which predates Blakely and Booker? (4) In the alternative, however the facts are characterized (as sentencing factors or elements), where facts have a significant, indeed determinative impact, does the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment require the application of the beyond a reasonable doubt standard?
As you can tell, the Malouf Sentencing Memorandum covers a lot of ground, and I strongly recommend you read it all.