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June 2004
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Judge defies sentencing rules

Via TalkLeft comes this AP report:

n a scathing criticism of the system used to punish federal crimes, a judge on Monday called the government’s sentencing guidelines unconstitutional, saying they unfairly limit the authority of judges. In a series of drug cases, U.S. District Judge William Young said the guidelines put too much power in the hands of prosecutors and give judges too little discretion in sentencing.

….In his ruling, Young said he believes the sentences handed down to five defendants were too harsh and violated their constitutional right to due process. Young asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the sentences and send the cases back for new sentencing hearings.

The Judge put out an amazing supersentencing memo (pdf) — 174 pages indicting the current system, complete with graphs, charts, detailed references and some very interesting writing. Here’s one part of it, where he talks about the 5 cases that sparked the memo:

These sentencing memoranda deal with
five criminals. Three insisted on their constitutionally
guaranteed trial by jury. The two others pled guilty and
cooperated. The most evil and violent is a gang leader who had
much information to give. The least, a woman, had little to give
but went on courageously to finger a major drug lord. This is
reality.

Richard Green is a retail drug dealer preying on the
inhabitants of one of Boston’s public housing projects. On two
occasions he sold small quantities of crack cocaine (0.6 grams
and 2.4 grams respectively) to an undercover informant. The
government seeks to imprison him for 24 years.

William Olivero is a New York worker for a massive drug
conspiracy whose kingpin (and major drug activity) are located in
Massachusetts. Though not himself a dealer, Olivero has, on
occasion, delivered kilogram quantities of cocaine and associated
drug money for the kingpin. Olivero possesses a handgun. The
kingpin has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his offenses.
The government seeks to imprison Olivero for twenty-four to
thirty years.

Jason Pacheco is a marijuana dealer who knew the kingpin,
who on occassion purchased kilogram quantities of cocaine from
the kingpin for his own account, and who once accommodated the
kingpin by allowing his garage to be used for the brief storage
and transshipment of a multi-kilogram quantity of cocaine. The
government seeks to imprison him for twelve to fifteen years.
Edward K. Mills is a multiple murderer who led a vicious
street gang. Eventually apprehended, he recognized the jig was
up and cooperated with authorities. A gang leader himself, he
had much information to give and his disclosures have led to the
conviction of another murderer and the freeing of an individual
wrongfully convicted of murder. The government seeks to imprison
him for ten years.

“Jane Doe,” a pseudonym, is a young, single mother. A drug
addict, she dealt cocaine to support her habit. Eventually
apprehended, she too cooperated and testified in open court so
that the government might secure the conviction of an important
drug lord from her homeland. In light of her cooperation, the
government recommends a short sentence. As an alien, however,
the government proposes to deport her back to her homeland where,
the government admits, she will almost certainly be killed,
perhaps after torture.

To achieve its ends, the government routinely imposes a
stiff penalty upon defendants who exercise their constitutional
right to trial by jury. In the first of the instant cases, the
government’s attempts to burden a citizen’s right to a jury of
his peers exceeds all constitutional bounds. The second case
involves repeated instances of illegal fact bargaining. The
third involves enforcement of a bargain with a cold-blooded
killer that the Court characterized as evincing “a moral code
more suited to the alleys of Baghdad than the streets of Boston,”
and the fourth reveals such callous indifference to innocent
human life as would gag any fair minded observer. And this Court
–- stripped of any meaningful role in the sentencing of offenders
who come before it –- can do little more than explain what’s
going on. That, at least, I will do.

Then he goes on to do so at length.
Very interesting stuff. Nice to see more of the judiciary rebelling against the gutting of judicial discretion and the continual tipping of power to the prosecutor.

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