High court kills part of sentence law
The Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law intended to keep people convicted of repeated violent crimes in prison longer.
The justices ruled that a catchall phrase in the Armed Career Criminal Act defining what crimes make a defendant eligible for a longer prison term is too vague.
The court sided with Samuel James Johnson, who pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges in 2012. Johnson was sentenced to 15 years in prison — f ive more than he otherwise would have gotten — because of his prior convictions.
That law lists burglary, arson, extortion and the use of explosives as specific categories of previous crimes that can lead to a longer sentence. But it also says a violent felony is a crime that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”
Six justices agreed the phrase is unconstitutional.