Sentencing

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Guilty Plea in Pot Snacks Case

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Tri-Valley Herald
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_4400045

Sentencing: No Retroactive Relief for Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners, New York Appeals Court Rules

People serving tough mid-level sentences under New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws will not be able to get those sentences reduced if they were convicted before drug sentencing reforms took effect in January 2005, the state's highest court ruled September 21. In its opinion in the consolidated cases of three men sentenced under the old laws, the court held that the legislature intended only to cut the sentences of those newly convicted.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/rockpataki.jpg
not enough: Gov. Pataki signs Rockefeller reform bill, 12/04
Under the Drug Law Reform Act that came into effect last year, some 400 prisoners facing the most severe sentences -- up to life -- were allowed to seek retroactive sentence cuts. But thousands of prisoners doing lesser, but still severe, sentences were not explicitly granted that right. Three of them -- Thomas Thomas Utsey, Michael Nelson and Corey Smith -- appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing they should have had the same opportunity to seek retroactive redress.

But in a unanimous decision, the court said no way. The bill clearly stated that the law would "apply to crimes committed on or after the effective date," the court noted. "Under the plain language of the statute, the relevant provisions of the DLRA are intended to apply only to crimes committed after its effective date," Chief Judge Judith Kaye said in her decision. "That being so, defendants are not eligible for the reduced penalties contained in the new law."

It took years of dogged effort by a broad coalition of civil rights, prison reform, and drug reform groups to win even the partial reform that was approved in 2004. Now, the New York courts have strongly signaled that any further relief must come through that same cumbersome legislative process.

Guatemalan troops storm prison with jacuzzi, drugs

Location: 
Guatemala
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2029896.cms

Cory Maye to be Re-sentenced!

Huge news from Radley Balko. Cory Maye’s attorney Rhonda Cooper was found incompetent during the sentencing phase, which means Maye’s death sentence is vacated, at least for now.

For anyone unfamiliar with the case, Cory Maye was sentenced to death in Mississippi after fatally shooting a police officer who he mistook for a burglar. Maye lived alone with his infant daughter and had no criminal record. The raid appears to have been a mistake, but Maye’s apparent attempt to defend his home and daughter led to a murder conviction and a now-vacated death sentence.

Balko’s article in Reason Magazine provides an in-depth look at the case, which I’d argue is one of the most compelling stories of injustice yet to emerge from our disastrous war on drugs.

Read the article
, then check out Balko’s blog The Agitator for on-going coverage of Maye’s appeal. There's a lot happening with the case over the next couple weeks , so this is a great time to get caught up.

 

Location: 
United States

Possible 40-year term debated for teen accused of drug smuggling

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4211621.html

Web Scan

commentary on pregnancy and drug use, from Women's Enews

Maryland criminal justice reform page, including report on treatment and imprisonment, from the Justice Policy Institute

historic anti-drug address of Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Cultural Baggage for 09/15/06, including Judge Arthur L. Burnett & Vincent Hayden of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition and Howard Wooldridge of Law Enforcement against Prohibition

New JPI Report on Drug Treatment and Incarceration in Maryland

JPI is please to announce the release of our latest policy report, "Progress and challenges: An analysis of drug treatment and imprisonment in Maryland from 2000-2005." The report, authored by Kevin Pranis, shows that while many Maryland jurisdictions are making progress towards the goal of providing "treatment, not incarceration" for nonviolent substance abusers, the state's investments in treatment have not kept pace with demand, and the state spends far more to imprison people convicted of drug offenses than it spends to treat drug involved people through the criminal justice system. The report was covered in The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Baltimore Sun, The Carol County Times, The Maryland Daily Record, and other papers and electronic media across the state, and in Washington, DC. This new report, and five monographs we have written about state sentencing policy, along with recent news articles on Maryland sentencing and systems reform are featured on a new Maryland page of our website, which can be found at http://www.justicepolicy.org/projects/maryland/maryland.htm. Check back with us periodically, as JPI begins to build our website as a clearinghouse on Maryland drug sentencing and system reforms issues throughout the coming year.
Location: 
MD
United States

On the Thai Coup Attempt

The mass media today are full of reports about the slow-motion military coup attempt taking place in Thailand. While I'm not a big fan of military coups, I have to point out that this one couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Long-time Chronicle readers may recall Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the man who unleashed a "war on drugs" in 2003 where some 2,000 people summarily executed. That's human rights speak for gunned down in the streets without a trial or even an arrest. Here's a link to just one of the stories we did on Shinawatra's massacre of drug users and sellers. There is much more if you want to dig through our archives. I don't claim to be up to speed on the intricacies of Thai politics. But Shinawatra, a Berlusconi-style figure in Thai politics, a fabulously wealthy media magnate who sought to impose his twisted morality on the country he governed, needs to be sitting in the defendant's dock, not the presidential palace.
Location: 
Thailand

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

Sentencing: US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Throws out Crack Cocaine Sentence

In a ruling Monday, the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threw out a 24-year prison sentence for a man possessing less than three ounces of crack cocaine. The court held that the US District Court judge who sentenced the man erred in believing he had to sentence the man based on the 100:1 quantity disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Such sentences are no longer mandatory, said the appeals court, only advisory.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/prisondorm.jpg
Under a 1986 law passed in the midst of a wave of anti-drug hysteria, the US Congress enacted a two-tier sentencing scheme for cocaine defendants with crack defendants facing sentences decades longer than powder cocaine defendants for possessing the same amount of the drug. But the appeals court held that since the US Supreme Court last year ruled that federal sentencing guidelines were only advisory and not mandatory, sentencing judges need not be bound by the guidelines.

The three-judge panel held that defendant Johnny Gunter was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. "The limited holding here is that district courts may consider the crack/powder cocaine differential in the guidelines as a factor, but not a mandate, in the... sentencing process," wrote Judge Thomas Ambro for the court.

Assistant US Attorney Robert Zauzmer told the Philadelphia Inquirer the ruling was likely to be cited by every defendant in a crack case. "This is a significant opinion which we are studying closely," he said, adding prosecutors were considering whether to ask the appeals court to reconsider the decision or appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin, meanwhile, told the Inquirer the ruling would help reduce the racial disparities existing in cocaine sentencing. "This has a great impact in helping to reduce the racial disparity that stems from that ratio," McColgin said.

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