In another criminal case, the court said reducing a sentence to the statutory maximum isn’t enough to cure an order sentencing a defendant to a term that exceeded the maximum penalty.
The defendant [Jerome K. Rawls] was convicted of second-degree murder in 1996 for a 1992 offense, just before the maximum penalty for the crime was increased from 20 years to 40. The jury recommended 25 years, and the trial judge imposed it because neither the prosecution nor the defense caught the error.
Years later, the defendant contended that the sentencing order was void. The trial judge attempted to fix the problem by reducing the sentence to the statutory maximum.
Not good enough, the Supreme Court ruled today and said the defendant is entitled to a new sentencing hearing.