Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

THOMAS BRAXTON v. UNITED STATES

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 90-5358 111 S. Ct. 1854, 500 U.S. 344, 114 L. Ed. 2d 385, 59 U.S.L.W. 4499, 1991.SCT.43009 <http://www.versuslaw.com> decided: May 28, 1991. THOMAS BRAXTON, PETITIONERv.UNITED STATES CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT. Stephen J. Cribari argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Fred Warren Bennett and Mary M. French. Stephen J. Marzen argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Starr, Assistant Attorney General Mueller, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson. Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Author: Scalia


CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Scalia

 JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

At about 7 a.m. on June 10, 1988, four United States marshals arrived at Thomas Braxton's door with a warrant for his arrest. One of the marshals, Deputy Jenkins, knocked. There was no answer, though they could hear someone inside. Thirty minutes later the officers returned with a key to Braxton's apartment. Jenkins knocked again; and again received no answer. He unlocked the door, only to find it secured with a chain lock as well -- which he broke by kicking the door open. "[C]ontemporaneous with the door opening, a gunshot was fired through the door opening. The gunshot lodged in the front door just above the doorknob. That's the outside of the front door." App. 17. The door slammed shut, and the officers withdrew. A moment later, Jenkins again kicked the door open. Another shot was fired, this too lodging in the front of the door, about five feet from the floor. The officers again withdrew, and the area was barricaded. Braxton, who had fired the shots, eventually gave himself up, and was charged in a three-count indictment with (1) an attempt to kill a deputy United States marshal (18 U. S. C. § 1114), (2) assault on a deputy marshal (§ 111), and (3) the use of a firearm during a crime of violence (§ 924(c)).

These were the facts as presented by the Government during the course of a plea hearing, pursuant to Rule 11(f) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, at which Braxton pleaded guilty to the assault and firearm counts of the indictment, and not guilty to the attempt to kill count. The pleas were not made pursuant to any plea agreement, and the Government did not dismiss the attempt to kill count at the plea hearing. The purpose of the hearing was simply to provide a factual basis for accepting Braxton's guilty pleas.

Braxton agreed with the facts as the Government characterized them, with two small caveats, neither of which is significant for purposes of this case. Subject to those "modifications," Braxton agreed that "what the Government say[s] that it could prove [happened] happened." App. 19. With this factual basis before it, the District Court accepted Braxton's guilty pleas, specifically noting that "there is no plea agreement." Ibid.

Two months later, Braxton was sentenced. Relying upon a proviso in § 1B1.2(a) of the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual (1990), and over Braxton's objections, the District Court in essence sentenced Braxton as though he had been convicted of attempted killing, the only charge to which Braxton had not confessed guilt. The Court of Appeals upheld the sentence, 903 F.2d 292 (CA4 1990), and we granted certiorari. 498 U.S. 966 (1990).

I

Ordinarily, a court pronouncing sentence under the Guidelines applies the "offense guideline section . . . most applicable to the offense of conviction." § 1B1.2(a). There is, however, one "limited" exception to this general rule, § 1B1.2, comment., n. 1, consisting of the following proviso to § 1B1.2(a):

" Provided , however, in the case of conviction by a plea of guilty or nolo contendere containing a stipulation that specifically establishes a more serious offense than the offense of conviction, [the court shall apply the guideline in such chapter] most applicable to the stipulated offense."

Braxton's conviction was no doubt by a "plea of guilty." This case presents the questions whether it was also a conviction by a plea (1) "containing a stipulation" that (2) "specifically establishes" that Braxton attempted to kill the marshals who had been sent to arrest him. The Courts of Appeals have divided on the meaning of the first phrase, "containing a stipulation," and Braxton argues that however that phrase is read, the court below misapplied the second, "specifically establishes a more serious offense." We consider each contention in turn.

A

As the District Court noted, there was no plea agreement in this case. Braxton argues that his plea did not "contai[n]" a stipulation because by "containing a stipulation," the Guidelines mean a stipulation that is part of a formal plea agreement. Some Circuits to consider the question have agreed with that interpretation, believing that the "stipulation" must be part of the " quid pro quo " for the Government's agreement not to charge a higher offense. See, e. g., United States v. McCall, 915 F.2d 811, 816, n. 4 (CA2 1990); United States v. Warters, 885 F.2d 1266, 1273, n. 5 (CA5 1989). But as the Government points out, § 1B1.2 does not by its terms limit its application to stipulations contained in plea agreements; the language speaks only of "plea[s] . . . containing a stipulation." Since, the Government argues, any formal assent to a set of facts constitutes a stipulation, Braxton's guilty plea "contain[ed] a stipulation" upon which the court could rely in setting his base-offense level. That was the approach of the court below.

A principal purpose for which we use our certiorari jurisdiction, and the reason we granted certiorari in the present case, is to resolve conflicts among the United States courts of appeals and state courts concerning the meaning of provisions of federal law. See this Court's Rule 10.1. With respect to federal law apart from the Constitution, we are not the sole body that could eliminate such conflicts, at least as far as their continuation into the future is concerned. Obviously, Congress itself can eliminate a conflict concerning a statutory provision by making a clarifying amendment to the statute, and agencies can do the same with respect to regulations. Ordinarily, however, we regard the task as initially and primarily ours. Events ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.