Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Poll

Are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines re Crack & Cocaine racially biassed?

Yes
 13 (72.2%)
No
 2 (11.1%)
Don't Know
 3 (16.7%)

Total Members Voted: 18

Author Topic: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine  (Read 6720 times)

Burning Sands, Esq.

  • Global Moderator
  • LSD Obsessed
  • ****
  • Posts: 7072
  • Yes We Kan-sas!!!
    • View Profile
Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« on: December 10, 2007, 11:31:54 AM »
Court: Judges can reduce crack sentences
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
12 minutes ago
 


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday said judges may impose shorter prison terms for crack cocaine crimes, enhancing judicial discretion to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine powder.


By a 7-2 vote, the court said that a 15-year sentence given to Derrick Kimbrough, a black veteran of the 1991 war with Iraq, was acceptable, even though federal sentencing guidelines called for Kimbrough to receive 19 to 22 years.

In a separate sentencing case that did not involve crack cocaine, the court also ruled in favor of judicial discretion to impose more lenient sentences than federal guidelines recommend.

The challenges to criminal sentences center on a judge's discretion to impose a shorter sentence than is called for in guidelines established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, at Congress' direction. The guidelines were adopted in the mid-1980s to help produce uniform punishments for similar crimes.

The cases are the result of a decision three years ago in which the justices ruled that judges need not strictly follow the sentencing guidelines. Instead, appellate courts would review sentences for reasonableness, although the court has since struggled to define what it meant by that term.

Kimbrough's case did not present the justices with the ultimate question of the fairness of the disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentences. Congress wrote the harsher treatment for crack into a law that sets a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence for trafficking in 5 grams of crack cocaine or 100 times as much cocaine powder. The law also sets maximum terms.

Seventy percent of crack defendants are given the mandatory prison terms.

Kimbrough is among the remaining 30 percent who, under the guidelines, get even more time in prison because they are convicted of trafficking in more than the amount of crack that triggers the minimum sentences.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said, "A reviewing court could not rationally conclude that it was an abuse of discretion" to cut four years off the guidelines-recommended sentence for Kimbrough.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The Sentencing Commission recently changed the guidelines to reduce the disparity in prison time for the two crimes. New guidelines took effect Nov. 1 after Congress took no action to overturn the change.

The commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on the retroactive application of the crack cocaine guideline amendment that went into effect on Nov. 1. The commission has estimated 19,500 inmates could apply for sentence reductions under the proposal.

In the other case, the court, also by a 7-2 vote, upheld a sentence of probation for Brian Gall for his role in a conspiracy to sell 10,000 pills of ecstasy. U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Des Moines, Iowa, determined that Gall had voluntarily quit selling drugs several years before he was implicated, stopped drinking, graduated from college and built a successful business. The guidelines said Gall should have been sent to prison for 30 to 37 months.

The sentence was reasonable, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion. Alito and Thomas again dissented.

Under the decisions in both cases, Alito said, "Sentencing disparities will gradually increase."

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, David Souter, Ginsburg and Stevens formed the majority in both cases.

The cases are Kimbrough v. U.S., 06-6330, and Gall v. U.S., 06-7949.
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston

A.

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 15712
    • View Profile
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2007, 11:56:46 AM »
Nice!  smh @ Thomas though

Burning Sands, Esq.

  • Global Moderator
  • LSD Obsessed
  • ****
  • Posts: 7072
  • Yes We Kan-sas!!!
    • View Profile
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2007, 12:16:06 PM »
If Scalia is not dissenting then what are those other two trying to prove here? sheesh
"A lawyer's either a social engineer or a parasite on society. A social engineer is a highly skilled...lawyer who understands the Constitution of the U.S. and knows how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering [our] conditions."
Charles H. Houston

BearlyLegal

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6273
  • And the greatest threat to America is... Bears!!!
    • AOL Instant Messenger - Newjoetm
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2007, 01:21:28 PM »
They aren't. But I see why a lot of people think they are.

casper13

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 255
  • Oh I just love her. dont you
    • View Profile
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2007, 02:09:10 PM »
I have actually just got done with a criminal justice class that explored the mandatory sentencing practices, yes they are racially based. Before white's started using marijuana and their children using it also it was considered a drug of mexicans and the laws punishing those who were caught with it were very harsh compared to now. Once the white population started to use then the laws and punishments for marijuana went down. Now with crack cocaine it is widley known that the white population does not manufacture or deal the crack derivative of cocaine, it is mostly a minority drug. Crack possession laws and punishments are harsher than actual pure cocaine possession laws, that are predominantly the drug of choice for white's both use and dealing. So yes racially motivated drug laws. I bet that if white kids started using crack then they laws would change again

A.

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 15712
    • View Profile
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2007, 04:55:25 PM »
If Scalia is not dissenting then what are those other two trying to prove here? sheesh

I haven't read the opinions or commentary yet, but I bet it has something to do with stare decisis.

BearlyLegal

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6273
  • And the greatest threat to America is... Bears!!!
    • AOL Instant Messenger - Newjoetm
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2007, 05:00:50 PM »
I have actually just got done with a criminal justice class that explored the mandatory sentencing practices, yes they are racially based. Before white's started using marijuana and their children using it also it was considered a drug of mexicans and the laws punishing those who were caught with it were very harsh compared to now. Once the white population started to use then the laws and punishments for marijuana went down. Now with crack cocaine it is widley known that the white population does not manufacture or deal the crack derivative of cocaine, it is mostly a minority drug. Crack possession laws and punishments are harsher than actual pure cocaine possession laws, that are predominantly the drug of choice for white's both use and dealing. So yes racially motivated drug laws. I bet that if white kids started using crack then they laws would change again
Could these phenomena have something to do with the fact that suburban white kids who smoke pot, and wealthy lawyers with coke habits are less likely to shoot up the block than statistically poorer minorities who smoke pot or do crack?

This issue only has a racial angle if you choose to view it through a racial lens.

Around the country, sentencing laws for Meth-related crimes are becoming harsher and harsher, and the typical crystal meth user is a poor white person. Racist against whites? I don't think so.

Now, if you wanted to attack the social conditions that lead to people who smoke crack to be more violent, perhaps there is a link to institutionalized racism.

BearlyLegal

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6273
  • And the greatest threat to America is... Bears!!!
    • AOL Instant Messenger - Newjoetm
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2007, 05:08:09 PM »
Well the sentencing gudielines on crack have a definate racial component that has been recognized by the guidelines comission who have been trying to get them evened out.
Because a commission that something is true does not necessarily meant their findings are in fact true.

Crack sentencing guidelines are clearly *unjust*, but they are that way because of an overreaction on the part of legislators in the 1980's about gang violence in the streets, and a mythical "crack baby" movement. Yes, black people ended up being burdened much more by these guidelines than white people were, but that doesn't mean that federal sentencing guidelines were designed by the klan to keep the black man down.

BearlyLegal

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6273
  • And the greatest threat to America is... Bears!!!
    • AOL Instant Messenger - Newjoetm
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2007, 05:16:58 PM »
Well the sentencing gudielines on crack have a definate racial component that has been recognized by the guidelines comission who have been trying to get them evened out.
Because a commission that something is true does not necessarily meant their findings are in fact true.

Crack sentencing guidelines are clearly *unjust*, but they are that way because of an overreaction on the part of legislators in the 1980's about gang violence in the streets, and a mythical "crack baby" movement. Yes, black people ended up being burdened much more by these guidelines than white people were, but that doesn't mean that federal sentencing guidelines were designed by the klan to keep the black man down.

No it doesnt mean they have a racial intent but the effect has certainly been racially disparate.  Like I say the sentencing commission that wrote, and is in charge of revising this stuff, has acknowledged that the result has played out along racial lines and has been advocating changes, but Congress has been unwilling to decrease penalties.  Neither has Congress been willing to raise sentences for regular cocaine.
Yeah, sounds like we are on the same page on this one. :)

BearlyLegal

  • LSD Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6273
  • And the greatest threat to America is... Bears!!!
    • AOL Instant Messenger - Newjoetm
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Federal Sentencing Guidelines on Crack/Cocaine
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2007, 06:11:28 PM »
Well the sentencing gudielines on crack have a definate racial component that has been recognized by the guidelines comission who have been trying to get them evened out.
Because a commission that something is true does not necessarily meant their findings are in fact true.

Crack sentencing guidelines are clearly *unjust*, but they are that way because of an overreaction on the part of legislators in the 1980's about gang violence in the streets, and a mythical "crack baby" movement. Yes, black people ended up being burdened much more by these guidelines than white people were, but that doesn't mean that federal sentencing guidelines were designed by the klan to keep the black man down.
Yeah, I recognize the disparate impact, which is why I I did say that they are *unjust* in execution. But just because something has potential disparate effect doesn't mean it is racist in intent.

First, saying something is racially biased doesn't mean it was designed by the Klan to keep the black man down (duh - do you know anything about antidiscrimination law? The whole discriminatory purpose v. disparate impact thing?)

Second, it very well could have been designed by the Klan...