Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas appeared poised to side with Siegelman in SCOTUS case that could have protected the right to trial by jury
By ROGER SHULER
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision yesterday not to hear the latest appeal in the Don Siegelman case, of course, is a blow to the former Alabama governor. But it’s also a blow to a supposedly bedrock concept of our democracy–the right to a jury trial. That means yesterday’s decision is a blow to all Americans, even those who’ve never heard of Don Siegelman and have no idea what his case is about.
Here is the central issue in the Siegelman appeal: May a court consider acquitted conduct to increase a sentence within the statutory range of the offense for which the defendant was convicted? That is precisely what U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller–who since has resigned from the bench in the wake of a wife-beating scandal–did in the Siegelman case. And it’s a big reason Siegelman is not scheduled for release from federal prison until August 8, 2017.
To a considerable extent, he is being held now based on charges of which a jury acquitted him. A number of constitutional and legal groups have filed briefs in the case, arguing that such an outcome violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial and violates the Right to Popular Sovereignty inherent in the U.S. Constitution.