The 2002 Supreme Court Decisions: Did They Leave Enough of Apprendi to Effectively Protect Criminal Defendants?
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This comment explores the true impact of the 2000 landmark decision, Apprendi v. New Jersey, in which the United States Supreme Court determined that any fact that increases a criminal defendant's sentence beyond the statutory maximum has to be submitted to a jury and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. At the time, the decision appeared to be a triumph for the procedural due process rights of defendants. However the opinion of the majority, as well as those of the concurrence and dissents, left the actual effect of the decision subject to considerable debate among courts and commentators. In 2002 the Supreme Court decided three cases that addressed some of these issues, and illustrated that the Court has failed to find a definite, unified principle to effectively protect the procedural due process rights of defendants. This comment explores those decisions and then argues that the Court should overrule Apprendi in favor of an alternative that will more effectively protect the rights of defendants, such as requiring aggravating factors to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at sentencing.