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Blakely v. Washington

Supreme Court of the United States

March 23, 2004, Argued ; June 24, 2004, Decided

No. 02-1632


 [*298]  [**2534]   Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Ralph Howard Blakely, Jr., pleaded guilty to the kidnaping of his estranged wife. The facts admitted in his plea, standing alone, supported a maximum sentence of 53 months. Pursuant to state law, the court imposed an "exceptional" sentence of 90 months after making a judicial determination that he had acted with "deliberate cruelty." App. 40, 49. We consider whether this violated petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Petitioner married his wife Yolanda in 1973. He was evidently a difficult man to live with, having been diagnosed at various times with psychological and personality disorders including paranoid schizophrenia. His wife ultimately filed for divorce. In 1998, he abducted her from their orchard home in Grant County, Washington, binding her with duct tape and forcing her at knifepoint into a wooden box in the bed of his pickup truck.  [****5]  In the process, he implored her to dismiss the divorce suit and related trust proceedings.

When the couple's 13-year-old son Ralphy returned home from school, petitioner ordered him to follow in another car, threatening to harm Yolanda with a shotgun if he did not do so. Ralphy escaped and sought help when they stopped at a gas station, but petitioner continued on with Yolanda to a friend's house in Montana. He was finally arrested after the friend called the police.

The State charged petitioner with first-degree kidnaping, Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.40.020(1) (2000). 1 Upon reaching a plea agreement, however, it reduced the charge to second-degree kidnaping involving domestic violence and use  [*299]  of a firearm, see §§ 9A.40.030(1), 10.99.020(3)(p), 9.94A.125. 2 Petitioner entered a guilty plea [**2535]  admitting  [***411]  the elements of second-degree kidnaping and the domestic-violence and firearm allegations, but no other relevant facts.

 [****6]  The case then proceeded to sentencing. ] In Washington, second-degree kidnaping is a class B felony. § 9A.40.030(3). State law provides that ] "[n]o person convicted of a [class B] felony shall be punished by confinement . . . exceeding . . . a term of ten years." § 9A.20.021(1)(b). Other provisions of state law, however, further limit the range of sentences a judge may impose. Washington's Sentencing Reform Act specifies, for petitioner's offense of second-degree kidnaping with a firearm, a "standard range" of 49 to 53 months. See § 9.94A.320 (seriousness level V for second-degree kidnaping); App. 27 (offender score 2 based on § 9.94A.360); § 9.94A.310(1), box 2-V (standard range of 13-17 months); § 9.94A.310(3)(b) (36-month firearm enhancement). 3 A judge may impose a sentence above the standard range if he finds "substantial and compelling reasons justifying an exceptional sentence." § 9.94A.120(2). The Act lists aggravating factors that justify such a departure, which it recites to be illustrative rather than exhaustive. § 9.94A.390.  Nevertheless, "[a] reason offered to justify an exceptional sentence can be considered only if it takes into account factors other than those [****7]  which are used in computing the standard range sentence for the offense." State v. Gore, 143 Wn.2d 288, 315-316, 21 P.3d 262, 277 (2001).  ] When a judge imposes an exceptional sentence, he must set forth findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting it. § 9.94A.120(3). A reviewing  [*300]  court will reverse the sentence if it finds that "under a clearly erroneous standard there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the reasons for imposing an exceptional sentence." Id., at 315, 21 P. 3d, at 277 (citing § 9.94A.210(4)).

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542 U.S. 296 *; 124 S. Ct. 2531 **; 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4573 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4546; 6 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 619; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 430


Subsequent History: US Supreme Court rehearing denied by Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 961, 125 S. Ct. 21, 159 L. Ed. 2d 851, 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4887 (Aug. 23, 2004)

Related proceeding at State v. Blakely, 134 Wn. App. 1043, 2006 Wash. App. LEXIS 2254 (Aug. 17, 2006)


State v. Blakely, 111 Wn. App. 851, 47 P.3d 149, 2002 Wash. App. LEXIS 1152 (2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


sentence, guidelines, sentencing guidelines, cases, kidnaping, aggravating, label, disparities, factfinding, sentencing reform, guilty plea, the Sixth Amendment, offender, robbery, courts, indictment, maximum, schemes, sentencing factor, jury trial, indeterminate, common-law, firearm, limits, sentencing scheme, statutory maximum, bargaining, departure, increases, determinate sentencing

Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Sentencing Guidelines, General Overview, Ranges, Crimes Against Persons, Kidnapping, Penalties, Imposition of Sentence, Findings, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Adjustments & Enhancements, Clearly Erroneous Review, Factors, Criminal History, Statutory Maximums, Defendant's Rights, Right to Jury Trial, Governments, Courts, Judges, Departures From Guidelines, Domestic Offenses, Domestic Assault, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Jury Trial, Juries & Jurors, Province of Court & Jury, Sentencing Issues, Entry of Pleas, Guilty Pleas