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Too many people have been senteced to long prison terms for victimless crimes, first offense crimes and so on. John Forte being one of them. He was caught having some women transport some drugs. Because of mandatory sentencing her was given twenty plus years I believe, when someone who committed a murder the same day could have gotten five years or less. A divided Supreme Court has struck down mandatory sentencing!!

WASHINGTON - A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that federal judges no longer have to abide by controversial 18-year-old mandatory sentencing guidelines, saying that the consideration of factors not presented to jurors violates a defendant's right to a fair trial.

The 5-4 ruling was a blow for the Justice Department, which had defended the constitutionality of the federal sentencing guidelines that now apply to about 64,000 criminal defendants each year. Thousands of cases nationwide have been on hold pending Wednesday's ruling.

The high court ruled that its decision in June, which struck down a similar sentencing system used in Washington state for violating a defendant's constitutional rights, also applies to the federal guidelines.

Guidelines now advisory, not mandatory
Justice Stephen Breyer said in the court's opinion that the ruling meant the guidelines are no longer mandatory, making them only advisory for the sentencing judge.

If the judge chooses to use the sentencing guidelines to impose a longer sentence, an appeals court could overturn the sentence if it determines the application was unreasonable.

In two drug cases before the Supreme Court a judge imposed greater sentences under the guidelines, based on the judge's determination of a fact that was not found by the jury or admitted by the defendant.

The guidelines, long criticized by criminal justice reform advocates for imposing overly harsh sentences on a mandatory basis, set rules for federal judges in calculating what punishment to give a defendant and attempt to reduce wide disparities in sentences for the same crime. They tell judges which factors can lead to a lighter sentence and which ones can result in a longer sentence.

Breyer said Congress could act next.

"Ours, of course, is not the last word: The ball now lies in Congress' court. The national legislature is equipped to devise and install, long-term, the sentencing system compatible with the Constitution that Congress judges best for the federal system of justice," he wrote.

The Justice Department had appealed to the Supreme Court and defended the federal guidelines, arguing the federal system had been thrown into disarray by the ruling in June.

Justice Department ˜disappointed'
"We're disappointed in the ruling and we are currently reviewing it. We will have more to say later," said Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo.

The cases before the court involved two cases involving men convicted on drug charges in Wisconsin and Maine.

In siding with the two men, the court opened the door to thousands of claims by other defendants. But Justice John Paul Stevens said that not all of them will get new sentencing hearings. Judges must sort through the claims to determine which defendants have current appeals on the subject, he said.

The divided ruling took longer than expected. Justices had put the issue on a fast track, scheduling special arguments on the first day of their nine-month term in October. Most court watchers expected a ruling before the holidays.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors had been anxiously awaiting the ruling.

"The whole federal criminal law system is operating in a state of suspended animation," said Jeffrey Fisher, a Seattle attorney who argued last year's sentencing case. People have been waiting "for the shoe to drop so we can start grappling with the hard issues in the aftermath."

The cases are United States v. Booker, 04-104, and United States v. Fanfan, 04-105.
There are Negroes who will never fight for freedom. There are Negroes who will seek profit for themselves from the struggle. There are even some Negroes who will cooperate with the oppressors. The hammer blows of discrimination, poverty, and segregation must warp and corrupt some. No one can pretend that because a people may be oppressed, every individual member is virtuous and worthy. Martin Luther King

More to come later! Your Brother Faheem
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It's about time!
Now maybe 2 people who sell the same amount of Cocaine and Crack will get equal sentencing...---Oshun Auset

It IS about time.

I would not expect fairness in sentencing however.

The disparities in sentencing is about controlling (read repressing) us.

Strangely, I haven't heard a single thing on our local news. Or the national news for that matter.

You would think 'talk radio' would be screaming that anarchy is upon us.


Jim Chester


Jim Chester
We will have to wait and see if this is something that will actually materialize or if it is just more political window dressing to make it look like they have done everything to equalize our racist unjust and classist laws in this country.

I need to look up the Supreme Courts powers again, I was under the impression that they were absolute, except for in extreme circumstances, which would not include criminal sentencing laws.

Also, remember that the article states that judges no longer HAVE to abide by the mandatory sentencing, not that they are precluded from doing so; if that is the case you can look for more of the same, especially in the south (where they are unconstitutionally sentencing/convicting people and applying the mandatory sentencing to boot).

So, the way I see it, there has obviously been too many whites going before judges with charges that the judges have no other legal recourse but to hand down the mandatory sentences to them. So, at least, maybe a few Black defendants may go before fair and impartial judges that now will have the descretion to actually hand down fair and just sentences. Those going before America's racist, biggoted, classist judges will remain in the same boat as long as it is the judge's descretion, which is severly abused by judges historically in this country when in comes to African Americans, Hispanics, and now more so than ever, African American women.
January 12, 2005
The FSG are dead, long live the FSG!!
I am trying to come up with a simple take on Booker, and here it is: five Justices (the Apprendi/Blakely five) say the federal sentencing guidelines can no longer operate as mandatory sentencing rules (which is clearly how they were designed and intended to operate), but five Justices (the Apprendi/Blakely dissenters + Justice Ginsburg) have crafted the only possible remedy that would operate in a manner as close to the old system as possible.

Particularly significant, in my view, is Justice Breyer's repeated statement that, even as an advisory system, the Act still "requires judges to consider the Guidelines," Breyer for Court at 16-17, and that "district courts, while not bound to apply the Guidelines, must consult those Guidelines and take them into account when sentencing." Id. at 21-22. Thus, it appears that the FSG must continue to operate as a (shadow?) sentencing system, with presentence reports prepared (and fully litigated?) as in the past, and perhaps even with sentencing judges having to make on the record findings of what the FSG would provide.

(Indeed, as I read Justice Breyer's opinion for the Court, I think there is an argument that a district judge who fails to make (shadow?) rulings about the applicable guideline range could perhaps be subject to per se reversal. I also suppose that defendants and prosecutors might still be able to, and actually need to, appeal the (shadow?) guideline rulings because the reasonableness of the impose sentence on appeal would depend on the proper applicable guideline range.)

Also noteworthy, Justice Breyer describes a largely unchanged role for the Sentencing Commission in our new advisory world, since it "remains in place, writing Guidelines, collecting information about actual district court sentencing decisions, undertaking research, and revising the Guidelines accordingly." Id. at 21. But what if appellate courts start finding various of the USSC guidelines unreasonable? What good would new guidelines do? (Indeed, I cannot help but wonder how long it will take for some circuit panels to rule that some of the existing guidelines prohibiting consideration of family circumstances of drug dependency are in fact unreasonable in our new world (more on this later).

To put all this analysis in a much hipper way, I actually think that swing voter Justice Ginsburg must have been listening to The Who in chambers a lot. It is almost scary how fittingly the lyrics to Won't Get Fooled Again capture the Booker decision:

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war...

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

January 12, 2005 at 07:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Back to my best medium
It sure was exciting to be on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, although perhaps all I clearly established was that I have a face made for blogging. ;-) I am proud that, at the end of the segment, I was able to get in a plug for the US Sentencing Commission. Indeed, as I said here after Blakely, sentencing commissions have a critical role in bringing order to the disorderly world that SCOTUS has created, and that could not be more true in the wake of Booker.

In any event, with most of the media folk now past deadlines, I have a little more time to process the decisions and to share a number of reactions. I have so much to say about all the opinions, and so many questions, I am not sure where to start. But I hope, in a series of posts over the next few hours, to highlight some big picture ideas and concerns as we all try to size up the future of federal sentencing. Stay tuned.

January 12, 2005 at 07:02 PM
Originally posted by sunnubian:
Also, remember that the article states that judges no longer HAVE to abide by the mandatory sentencing, not that they are precluded from doing so; if that is the case you can look for more of the same, especially in the south (where they are unconstitutionally sentencing/convicting people and applying the mandatory sentencing to boot).

I don't know what came over me, I was thinking as an egalitarian, which the system is not like whatsoever...

This still doesn't prevent judges form OVER sentencing folk when they deam too.(and do all the time anyhow) Roll Eyes

At least the few somewhat fair jusges at least have the oportunity to not give rediculous senetences...but IMO the whole prison industrial complex is screwed reguardles...

Like JWC said..." The disparities in sentencing is about controlling (read repressing) us."
I do not expect all judges to use the new discretionary powers they have been allotted however, there have been judges in the past who said in open court that the punishment does not fit the crime and they wished they could sentence the defendant to less time. That bastard Asschroft threatened any judges with punishment if they did not abide by the sentencing guidelines, thus many of them were forced to sentenced young men and women to 30 years for aiding and abetting a drug deal.

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