This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.
on Jan 11, 2000
Decided Mar 28, 2000
Case Ruling: GARNER v. JONES
Respondent Jones escaped while serving a life sentence for murder, committed another murder, and was sentenced to a second life term. Georgia law at that time required considering inmates serving life sentences for parole after three years, but the law was later amended to eight years. The Georgia Parole Board has the discretion to shorten that interval, but declined to do so in Jones’ case, citing his multiple offenses. Jones sued, claiming that retroactive application violated the Ex Post Facto Clause [which disallows laws that are implemented retroactively].
Held:(Kennedy, joined by Rehnquist, O’Connor, Thomas, Breyer, and in part by Scalia)
Georgia parole officials had the right to extend the time a state prison inmate must wait before he or she can be considered for parole. Georgia law gives the Parole Board broad discretion in determining whether an inmate should receive early release. Such discretion does not displace the Ex Post Facto
Clause’s protections, but the idea of discretion is that it has the capacity, and the obligation, to change and adapt based on experience.
Dissent:(Souter, joined by Stevens and Ginsburg)
A change in parole policy violates the Ex Post Facto Clause if it creates a “sufficient” or substantial risk that the class affected by the change will serve longer sentences as a result. The changed rule threatens to increase punishment for all life-sentenced prisoners, not just those who would have been paroled at or before the average time. Georgia has given us nothing to suggest the contrary. And statements by the Parole Board indicate that its policies were intended to increase time served in prison. There is no indication that the board adopted the new policy merely to obviate useless hearings or save administrative resources, the justification the Court accepted in the Morales case. Thus, I dissent.
Participating counts on VoteMatch question 9.
Question 9: Stricter punishment reduces crime
Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
- Topic: Crime
- Headline: OK to lengthen prison sentences retroactively
- Headline 2: Can't lengthen prison sentences retroactively
- Key for participation codes:
- Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
- Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
- Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
- Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
- Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.
participating in 99-137
Total recorded by OnTheIssues: