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Name: Shepard v. United States
Case #: Mar-68
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 03/07/2005
Subsequent History: Cross cites: 125 S.Ct. 1254; 161 L.Ed.2d 205

The inquiry into whether a prior conviction which resulted from a guilty plea includes facts necessary to render it a prior conviction within the meaning of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA; 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)) “is limited to the terms of the charging document, the terms of a plea agreement or transcript of colloquy between judge and defendant in which the factual basis for the plea was confirmed by the defendant, or to some comparable judicial record of this information.” This limitation is consistent with the intent of Congress and with the Court’s prior holding in Taylor v. United States (1990) 495 U.S. 575, in which the Court held (as a matter of congressional intent) that, in determining whether a prior conviction qualifies as a prior under the ACCA, a sentencing judge is limited to the prior’s statutory elements, charging documents, and jury instructions. In a part of the opinion (part III) which was joined by only three other Justices (Stevens, Scalia and Ginsburg), Justice Souter opined that the holding of the Court was also required by the constitutional “concern underlying Jones [v. U.S. (1999) 526 U.S. 227, 243, fn. 6], and Apprendi [v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466, 490]: the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee a jury standing between a defendant and the power of the state, and they guarantee a jury’s finding of any disputed fact essential to increase the ceiling of a potential sentence.” Justice Thomas concurred in the result and in all parts of the opinion except part III, which he did not join because, in his view, it does not go far enough in explaining the constitutional infirmity of the ACCA and of Almendarez-Torres v. U.S. (1998) 523 U.S. 224, which he feels was “wrongly decided” and should be reconsidered.