April 22, 2007
The Ambiguity of "In"
In Young v. Commonwealth, 2007 WL 116154 (Va. 2007), a statute provided that if a criminal sentence was set aside "solely due to an error in the sentencing proceeding..." a different jury decided punishment, but guilt was not re-adjudicated. The majority concluded that a complete new trial was ordered because it held "in" was unambiguous and referred to an occurence during the sentencing phase, rather than something that affected the validity of the sentence, whether it occurred in the guilt phase or the sentencing phase. The dissent strongly disagreed and argued the phrase was ambiguous. And he did so quite passionately, I'll note.
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