The Biden administration was just shot down again by the Supreme Court following a unanimous ruling, where Biden nominated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was included. In the 9-0 ruling, it has been determined that some individuals that have been convicted of gun crimes may have a chance at receiving reduced prison sentences with their gun-related offenses served concurrently.
In her opinion on this matter, Justice Jackson noted that “Congress could certainly have designed the penalty scheme at issue here differently. But Congress did not do any of these things. And we must implement the design Congress chose.”
This particular case involved Efrain Lora, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting an individual involved in drug trafficking or a violent crime while carrying or using a firearm, as well as conspiracy to distribute drugs.
Lora and three accomplices had committed a murder of a rival drug dealer in 2002 in New York City due to territorial disputes.
He was sentenced based upon a law that forbade concurrent sentences for offenses which he had been convicted however, his argument stated that this law did not cover aiding and abetting offenses – something which federal prosecutors agreed upon as well.
Ultimately, all nine justices sided with Lora and ruled that subsection (c)’s consecutive sentence mandate applied only to terms imposed within subsection (c).
The result? A vacated prison sentence with the case remanded back down for resentencing – much welcomed news for those hoping for criminal justice reform.
Lawrence Rosenberg of Lora’s legal team released an excited statement saying: “We are thrilled that the Court preserved the longstanding default of discretion in criminal sentencing…[this] will help ensure that a defendant’s sentence fits both the crime and the individual.”
During oral arguments concerning this case, Justice Jackson expressed skepticism about why federal prosecutors believed they were entitled to certain penalties when there wasn’t language supporting such notions present within subsection (j).
Assistant to Solicitor General Erica Ross responded by noting “It also doesn’t say what [Lora] is suggesting.”
Clearly there was still more work needed before coming to any final conclusions.
This ruling comes at an interesting time politically speaking, especially given Joe Biden’s recent efforts towards criminal justice reform.