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January 11, 2006

Insightful report and analysis of Booker on crack

The Sentencing Project, which has done ground-breaking work on a range of critical sentencing topics, has now completed an important new report which analyzes post-Booker sentencing through a close look at published decisions in crack cocaine cases.  Though only examining a tiny (and perhaps not fully representative) slice of the federal sentencing system, this report provide essential new insights into one significant facet of the post-Booker sentencing world.

The report, which is entitled "Sentencing with Discretion: Crack Cocaine Sentencing After Booker" and can be accessed here, has far too many large and small insights to effectively summarize. Here is the report's nuanced conclusion:

A survey of the sentencing memoranda of the written decisions on crack cocaine cases post-Booker reveals the emergence of a new methodology of judicial deliberation.  While not an exhaustive analysis of every post-Booker crack cocaine sentence in the federal system, this report indicates the emergence of a sentencing model that judges are employing which is grounded in rational jurisprudence and thoughtful statutory interpretation. Booker's remedy directing the courts to evaluate all statutorily prescribed factors has had a significant impact on the sentencing landscape. Generally, the courts appear to be granting all such factors equal deference, and the former hierarchical approach, with the Guideline range preeminent, is unable to satisfy the statutory requirements of sentencing. Once the courts consider all factors on equal footing, the memoranda illustrate mounting tension between the Guideline range and the other elements related to the circumstances of the offense and the characteristics of the defendant.

Most notably, the severity of Guideline ranges seemed to many courts to mandate sentences greater than necessary to meet the prescribed goals of sentencing. In addition, the 100-to-1 disparity exacerbated inequalities in enforcement practices that frequently resulted in unwarranted sentencing disparities. For these courts, the solution was to turn to the Commission recommendations for reform of the 100-to-1 ratio and to use these as a framework for sentencing. The post-Booker world has changed the mechanics of crack cocaine sentencing and opened up opportunities for judges to contemplate a host of relevant factors to determine a sentence that is appropriate for the defendant, while still maintaining principles of fairness, equity, and the opportunity for rehabilitation.

Here are links to some prior blog coverage of a few of the decisions discussed in this report:

January 11, 2006 at 04:08 PM | Permalink

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