The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Kentucky man facing a nearly nine-year prison sentence for crack cocaine charges is eligible to have his sentence reduced. William Freeman agreed to the sentence in a plea deal, which was based on the sentencing guidelines for crack. When those guidelines changed, Freeman tried to have his sentence shortened, but was told he had to follow his plea deal.
A majority five justices ruled in Freeman’s favor. Four of those five said anyone who takes a plea deal should be eligible for a shorter sentence if guidelines change. But the fifth was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She ruled that only convicts whose plea deals state they are based on sentencing guidelines should be eligible.
“The case really does position Justice Sotomayor, at least in criminal matters, as part of the court’s center,” says U of L Professor Sam Marcosson. “Both the government and defense lawyers will have to think carefully about how to appeal to her and make careful arguments.
Marcosson says Sotomayor’s opinion significantly reduces the scope of the high court’s decision. Rather than affecting potentially thousands of prisoners, it will likely affect hundreds.
Freeman may again request a shorter sentence. If he does, the case will be heard at the federal courthouse in Louisville.