The Michigan Supreme Court tipped its hand about how it feels about judges sentencing defendants for crimes they weren’t convicted for. The Supreme Court overturned the Eric Beck conviction.
Beck went to jury trial on charges of homicide and felon in possession of a firearm. The jury convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm. They acquitted him on charges of homicide. Beck had a prior criminal history that was very serious.
The sentencing guidelines gave beck a range of 22 months to 6 1/4 years in prison. But the judge went rogue and sentenced Beck to 20-33 years in prison. The judge said that Beck was probably guilty of the homicide even though the jury acquitted him. The judge said that the prosecution didn’t get to present all the good evidence they might have had if a witness hadn’t died. The judge said that if the burden of proof were a preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt, Beck was guilty. In other words, what’s a little jury verdict when there’s real justice to dispense?
The Supreme Court wasn’t having it. They overturned Beck’s conviction. They said that the 6th Amendment says that we get a right to a trial by jury, and that the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. They reiterated that it’s the people, and not robes, that decide guilt and innocence in the United States.
The case has big implications for how the court might rule in the Robert Schwander case. I forget how many rounds have gone back & forth, but the gist of it is that the 13th Circuit Court wants to sentence Schwander for murder I when the jury convicted him of murder II. It’s not Robert Schwander that’s putting the victim’s family through sentencing after sentencing. That’s the fault of the 13th Circuit Court for thinking that following the law is optional. Based on the Beck ruling, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Supreme Court upholds the latest sentencing.
Thanks to a reader for tipping us off about the case.