“Judges can punish defendants for certain crimes even after a jury has acquitted them of those charges”

From today’s LA Times, this article reports the U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case asking whether judges may take into account “acquitted conduct” when they determine the length of a prison sentence.  Here are the key points:

[Mark Hurn’s] case began in 2005 when police in Madison searched Hurn’s home and found drugs. They seized 450 grams of crack cocaine, about 50 grams of powder cocaine and $38,000 in cash. Hurn admitted to being a drug dealer, but at his trial he testified the crack belonged to other people who lived in the house.

A jury convicted him of possessing powder cocaine but acquitted him of the crack cocaine charges. Nonetheless, prosecutors said he should be punished for both the crack and powder cocaine offenses, and recommended a sentence of about 20 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge John Shabazz agreed with the prosecutors and said there was good reason to think Hurn was guilty of the crack cocaine charges. He imposed a sentence of nearly 18 years.

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