Davidians' Sentences Set Aside
By RICHARD CARELLI
© The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court today set aside the lengthy prison sentences given to five Branch Davidians who survived a 1993 siege at the sect's Waco, Texas, compound. The court ruled that a federal judge misused an anti-gun law to increase their punishment.
The unanimous decision makes it harder for courts to find lawbreakers
deserve extra time behind bars because they used or carried machine guns during their crimes.
A federal law subjects anyone who used or carried a "firearm" during a
violent or drug-related crime to five years in prison. The term jumps to
30 years for anyone who used or carried a "machine gun" during that
Federal appeals courts had split on whether determining use of a machine gun is an element of the offense a jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt, or merely a sentencing factor a judge gets to determine by a preponderance of the evidence.
The nation's highest court said use of a firearm must be determined by
the jury. "We believe Congress intended the firearm type-related words it used... to refer to an element of a separate, aggravated crime," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the court.
Five Davidians were convicted in 1994 in the killings of four federal
agents during a botched Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid on the compound outside Waco.
The raid led to a 51-day standoff that ended when flames swept through
the compound. David Koresh and some 80 followers died during the inferno, some from the fire and others from gunshot wounds.
A federal jury acquitted the five Davidians of murder and
conspiracy-to-murder charges but convicted them of voluntary
manslaughter. Each was sentenced to 10 years in prison for that
conviction. The jury also found them guilty of using firearms.
The presiding judge tacked on 30-year sentences for four of them and a
10-year sentence for the fifth after finding that each had used a
Renos Avraam, Brad Eugene Branch, Jaime Castillo and Kevin Whitecliff drew the 30-year sentences; Graeme Craddock the 10-year term. Craddock also was sentenced to a consecutive 10 years for using a hand grenade.
The jury never had been asked to determine what types of firearms the
five had used. The judge made that determination during sentencing.
In appealing their sentences, the Davidians relied heavily on a decision
in which the justices last year said carjackers cannot be given tougher
sentences unless a jury, not a judge, determines that victims were
seriously injured during that federal crime.
The case presumably will return to a federal trial court where new
sentencing hearings will be conducted. Today's decision did not suggest
appropriate new sentences.
The case is Castillo vs. U.S., 99-658.
On the Net: For the decision: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/ Click
on "this month's decisions" or http://www.supremecourtus.gov
TAKE A MOMENT TO PICTURE THIS!
I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude and congratulations to Steve Halbrook who argued this case for the Davidians in the Supreme Court. Bless you Steve and let's get them ALL out of there!~
Here is Steve Halbrook's summary of today's
Supreme Court opinion in Castillo v. U.S.:
June 5, 2000
U.S. SUPREME COURT IN WACO CASE UPHOLDS RIGHT
TO JURY TRIAL OF FIREARM TYPES IN GUN CONTROL ACT
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided today in Castillo et al. v.
United States that firearm types defined in the federal Gun Control Act are elements of offenses that must be alleged in the indictment and decided by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The case involves the 30-year sentences imposed on Branch Davidians who escaped from the tragic fire near Waco, Texas, in 1993. They were charged with and convicted of carrying or using a "firearm" in a crime of violence during the BATF raid. 18 U.S.C. Â§ 924(c) makes this a 5-year offense, but the sentencing judge decided that "machineguns" were used and imposed a 30-year sentence.
Stephen P. Halbrook argued the case for the imprisoned Davidians in the Supreme Court on April 24. Today's 9-0 opinion, authored by Justice Breyer, held that whether a gun is a "firearm," "machinegun," or other listed weapon is an element of the offense and not a sentencing factor. The Court agreed at the outset that "treating facts that lead to an increase in the maximum sentence as a sentencing factor would give rise to significant constitutional questions. . . . Here, even apart from the doctrine of constitutional doubt, our consideration of Â§ 924(c)(1)'s language, structure, context, history, and such other factors as typically help courts determine a statute's objectives, leads us to conclude that the relevant words create a separate substantive crime."
The statute provides that whoever, during and in
relation to any
crime of violence, "uses or carries a firearm, shall be sentenced to
imprisonment for five years, and if the firearm is a . . . machinegun, . . .
to imprisonment for thirty years."
First, this language can be read "as simply substituting the word
â?~machinegun' for the initial word â?~firearm'; thereby both incorporating by reference the initial phrases that relate the basic elements of the crime and creating a different crime containing one new element, i.e., the use or carrying of a â?~machinegun' during and in relation to a crime of violence."
The structure clarifies any ambiguity in that carrying or
using a firearm is clearly an offense, and the machinegun language appears in the same
sentence without being broken up into subsections. Second, "we cannot say that
courts have typically or traditionally used firearm types (such as â?~shotgun' or
â?~machinegun') as sentencing factors . . . ." The Court emphasized that
"the difference between carrying, say, a
pistol and carrying a machinegun . . . is great, both in degree and kind."
Several provisions of the Gun Control Act distinguish firearm types in
defining offenses. Here, machinegun use is punishable by six-times greater imprisonment than firearm use.
Third, determination of the issue by the jury rather than a judge does
not complicate a trial or risk unfairness. Indeed, "in determining whether a defendant used or carried a â?~firearm,' the jury ordinarily will be asked to assess the particular weapon at issue as well as the circumstances under which it was allegedly used." Leaving it to the judge to decide whether a machinegun was used "might unnecessarily produce a conflict between the judge and the jury." Where two weapons are allegedly used, the jury may decide that only oneâ?"such as a pistolâ?"was used.
"A judge's later, sentencing-related decision that the
defendant used the machinegun, rather than, say, the pistol, might conflict with the
jury's belief that he actively used the pistol, which factual belief underlay its firearm
â?~use' conviction." "There is no reason to think that Congress would
have wanted a judge's views to prevail in a case of so direct a factual conflict,
particularly when the sentencing judge applies a lower standard of proof and when 25
additional years in prison are at stake."
Fourth, the legislative history does not support the government. The Â§ 924(c) firearm offense was enacted in the Gun Control Act of 1968, which was amended with the machinegun clause in the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986. Among other sponsors and supporters, Rep. Volkmer explained that the latter amendment "includes stiff mandatory sentences for the use of firearms, including machine-guns and silencers, in relation to violent or drug trafficking crimes." Such statements "show only that Congress believed that the â?~machinegun' and â?~firearm' provisions would work similarly" and "seemingly describe offense conduct, and, thus, argue against (not for) the
Fifth, "the length and severity of an added mandatory sentence that turns on the presence or absence of a â?~machinegun' (or any of the other listed firearm types) weighs in favor of treating such offense-related words as referring to an element. Thus, if after considering traditional interpretive factors, we were left genuinely uncertain as to Congress' intent in this regard, we would assume a preference for traditional jury determination of so important a factual matter." The Court refers to several precedents holding that the "rule of lenity requires that ambiguous criminal statutes be construed in favor of the accused."
For the above reasons, the Court reversed the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with the opinion. The effect of this is that the defendants' 30-year sentences for machinegun use must be vacated and that they should be resentenced to 5-years imprisonment for firearm use, the charge on which they were indicted and convicted.
Waco Siege Investigator Found Dead In His Home
WACO: The Case of the Persecuted Prosecutor
Davidians' Sentences Set Aside
APFN WHY WACO PAGES:
Inside Mount Carmel
Why WACO! "LET JUSTICE FINALLY BE DONE"
Why WACO! "LET JUSTICE FINALLY BE DONE"II
APFN WACO Page
More on Waco
Hillary Directed Waco
WACO: Gunshot Evidence
Sarah Bain's Letter to District Court Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr.
General Wesley Clark
The US military was at Waco
Former Waco Prosecutor Indicted
WACO: UNNERSTALL FAX
Excerpts from Mt. Carmel, the Unseen Reality
WACO AND NANCY SINATRA + OTHER RABBIT TRAILS
Mount Carmel A Day of Information
WACO ~ One of the Biggest "Federal Lies" of All Time
Waco Trial Update 06/25/00
WACO TRIAL 07/14/2000
WACO: INTERVIEW EXCERPTS: Dr. Nizam Peerwani
Who Waco! Probe Clinton's Ties To Riady to Rapoport to Why Waco!
FBI didn't plan to fight Waco fire
The Aftermath of Koresh's Waco
WACO: Files from APFN
WACO: GAO REPORT - DOD/FBI Ammo
Now the real Waco tragedy begins
PARDON THE SEVEN WACO PRISONERS
FROM RUTH MOSHER: Free Davidian prisoners: Personal comments precede!
Bring The Waco Murders To Justice! CLASS ACTION SUIT
HOW CAN YOU BE 100% CERTAIN?
"Beyond The Voice Of Reason,"
"The concrete residue on the inside block walls are
indicative of explosive activity within the room
consistent with the charge that blew through the top of
the room, from the outside in."
WAITING FOR THE KNOCK!
Info for Christians 'Wake up the mighty men!"
Good news!! We have a choice!
APFN FAST SEARCH: anti-gun law
206 documents found - 0.0502 seconds search time
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of
civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
-Thomas Jefferson, 1816
Re: Alaska 261/Egyptair 990/spraying of civilians?
I would highly encourage you to do research on the above topics,
and disperse them to a sleeping American populace.
Start with the following:
Capt.D.A. Wheeler/Airline Transport Pilot - Dglss77@aol.com
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
P L E A S E F O R W A R D
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
American Patriot Friends Network
"...a network of net workers..."
APFN Message Board
APFN Contents Page
APFN Home Page
Last updated 08/05/2010