SCRANTON TIMES-TRIBUNE EDITORIAL …The trend began in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the facts underlying any sentencing enhancement must be determined by the trial jury. That’s not how it is done in Pennsylvania, where a judge may lengthen sentences if he finds that a defendant was in possession of a gun, sold drugs near a mass transit stop or a school and on and on.
Appellate courts in Pennsylvania have begun to send back cases to trial courts for resentencing, based on the high court decision. About 75 such cases are on hold, waiting for the state Supreme Court to rule on a case from Philadelphia known as Commonwealth v. Hopkins.
If the Supreme Court overturns the state Superior Court, the mandatory minimums and enhancements might survive. If it upholds the lower court decisions, discretion over guilt will be returned to juries in cases that go to trial, and discretion over sentencing will be restored to judges, where it belongs… (more)