Estrella v. Ollison

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 12-29-2011
  • Case #: 10-56203
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge D.W. Nelson for the Court; Circuit Judges Gould and Ikuta
  • Full Text Opinion

Sentencing errors under Apprendi v. New Jersey , 530 U.S. 466 (2000), are harmless if the reviewing court can ascertain that the sentencing judge was presented with sufficient evidence to conclude that a jury would have found the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jose Estrella appealed the denial of his habeas petition, arguing that the trial court violated his Six Amendment rights by imposing a longer sentence because he was on parole for a violent offense when he was convicted of kidnapping. The district court held that his rights were violated under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), but found the error harmless. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that under Apprendi, any fact increasing a penalty for a crime beyond the statutory maximum must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. The court found that although Estralla’s rights were violated under Apprendi, the error must have caused actual prejudice to be relevant. Under a harmless error review of Apprendi violations, relief is only granted if the error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence on the sentence.” The Ninth Circuit reasoned that in conducting this review, courts consider the evidence presented at the sentencing proceeding and that Apprendi errors are harmless when the court can ascertain that a judge was presented with sufficient evidence at sentencing to conclude that a jury would have found the relevant facts proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Ninth Circuit found that a jury could have found that Estrella committed the kidnapping while on parole for assault. AFFIRMED.

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