(CN) – Revised sentencing guidelines for inmates with crack cocaine sentences are binding, the Supreme Court ruled.
Percy Dillon, an accused cocaine dealer, was sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison under older, harsher sentencing guidelines for procession of crack. He got his sentenced reduced by about 4 years.
Dillon then argued that he deserved a lower sentence because of the 2005 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Booker, issued after his original sentencing, which found that guidelines violated defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to jury trials because they allowed judges to set sentences based on things not brought before a jury.
The high court on Thursday rejected Dillon’s argument 6-1, with retiring Justice John Paul Stevens dissenting.
“We are aware of no constitutional requirement of retroactivity that entitles defendants sentenced to a term of imprisonment to the benefit of subsequent Guidelines amendments,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote. “Rather… [the law] represents a congressional act of lenity intended to give prisoners the benefit of later enacting adjustments to the judgments reflected in the Guidelines.”
In his dissent, Stevens said the outcome of Dillon’s sentencing would’ve been different if Booker was handed down sooner.
He said the sentencing judge “later explained that, were it within his discretion, he would have sentenced Dillon to 5 years of imprisonment.”
“Instead, the district court was compelled to mete out a punishment that it believed to be grossly disproportionate to the offense and therefore ‘greater than necessary’ to meet the goals of our criminal justice system,” Stevens wrote.
Justice Samuel Alito did not participate in the case.