Ten storage units, one felon and a potential life sentence: Supreme Court hears first cases in person after COVID

Wooden v. United States will bring the Armed Career Criminals Act into question as the Supreme Court returns to in-person session.
Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:23 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Tennessee felon wanting less jail time; that’s one of the first cases the U.S Supreme Court has heard in person this year. The justices are back behind the bench for the first time since the courtroom closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To a lean courtroom, Allon Kedem argued his client, William Wooden, should not have been given extra jail time under the Armed Career Criminals Act.

That’s a federal law, allowing the government to tack on 15 years to life in prison to felons convicted of three or more violent felony or drug offenses on  “occasions different from one another.”

So what separates an occasion? Time? Change in location? Opportunity? That’s what the court will decide while looking at Wooden’s case.

William Wooden broke into a Georgia storage facility containing ten different units in 1997.  He pled guilty to ten counts of burglary.

“Although Mr. Wooden was properly charged with 10 different burglaries- they were still on the same occasion,” said Kedem.

Kedem argued a common sense understanding of the law, emphasizing that Wooden’s burglaries were committed during one fluid criminal spree.

“The court will be focus on the question- what would someone who is just a plain language English speaker think this means,” Kedem said. “Is it the technical reading the government gave it, or the more common sense we give?”

The Department of Justice denied our request for an interview.  But, in opposition, they asked where, then, do you draw the line? Arguing each time Wooden broke through a different wall in the storage facility, he chose to commit a separate, distinct crime on a separate, distinct occasion.

An opinion from the court is not expected for months. If the Supreme Court sides with Wooden, he would be re-sentenced and likely receive less jail time.

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