WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- California's tough sentencing law has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling that said judges had too much latitude.
The key issue was that California has allowed judges to increase prison sentences based on evidence a jury didn't hear, The Washington Post reported.
"This court has repeatedly held that, under the Sixth Amendment, any fact that exposes a defendant to a greater potential sentence must be found by the jury, not a judge, and established beyond a reasonable doubt, not merely by a preponderance of the evidence," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. The decision was revealed Monday.
The appeal was based on a 16-year sentence police officer John Cunningham was given for a 2003 conviction of molesting his young son. He was eligible for a sentence of six, 12 or 16 years, and prosecutors recommended 12 years. The judge however, found six aggravating circumstances including violent conduct, the boy's vulnerability and threats Cunningham made against his son, and the maximum sentence was imposed.