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High Court Rules for Sex Offender in Sentence Challenge

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The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that even sex offenders deserve to have the reasons for their sentences determined by a jury, not a judge, USA Today reports. The justices ruled 5-4 that a federal law requiring sex offenders to return to prison based on a judge’s new findings is unconstitutional. Supreme Court precedent gives juries, not judges, the power to determine criminal conduct. Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of President Donald Trump’s two nominees on the court, wrote the opinion and was joined by the court’s four liberal justices, for the fourth time this term. Dissenting Justice Samuel Alito said, “I do not think that there is a constitutional basis for today’s holding.”

The decision was a victory for Andre Haymond, an Oklahoma man sentenced in 2010 to more than three years in prison on child pornography charges. In 2015, a judge found him guilty of violating his supervised release and tacked on five more years in prison. It was the second decision in a week involving the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, a 2006 law requiring sex offenders to register and notify authorities when they move. Last week, the court ruled 5-3 that the law properly gives the attorney general latitude in applying it to about 500,000 prior offenders. Challengers had argued only Congress can make that decision.

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