On June 17, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Alleyne v. United States. The question here was whether the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Harris v. United States--that the Constitution does not require a jury to determine facts used to increase a mandatory minimum sentence--should be overruled.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Thomas, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is an “element” that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly the Court overruled its earlier decision in Harris, vacated the judgment of the lower court, and remanded Alleyne’s case for further proceedings. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Thomas’s opinion as to Parts I, III–B, III–C, and IV, and Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan further joined Parts II and III–A.
Justice Sotomayor also filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kagan joined. Justice Breyer filed a separate opinion concurring in part and in the judgment. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia and Kennedy. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Ryan Scott, an associate professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.