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January 19, 2006

Two potent commentaries on the state of federal sentencing

Though locked behind subscriptions, there are two recent must-read pieces about the state of federal sentencing which everyone should try to access:

Forced to impose a sentence he deemed unjust, a Northern District judge took sharp aim last week at a federal statute that required him to impose a life-without-parole term on a 32-year-old "relatively small-time drug dealer" with an IQ of 72.

Judge David N. Hurd said child rapists and murderers will go free on parole while Justin D. Powell languishes in prison for life, largely because the defendant was convicted of drug crimes twice during his teenage years, more than a decade before the instant offense. Because of those prior convictions, the sole sentencing option was life, Judge Hurd said.

"The increment of harm in this case bears no rational relationship to the increment of punishment that I must impose," Judge Hurd said at a sentencing proceeding last week in Utica.  "This is what occurs when Congress sets [a] mandatory minimum sentence which distorts the entire judicial process....  As a result, I am obligated to and will now impose this unfair and, more important, unjust sentence."

UPDATE:  Thanks to TalkLeft, I see that the full NYLJ article is now available here.  As I said before, it is a must-read.  TalkLeft in this post reacts to the sentence Judge Hurd felt compelled to impose and attacks the application of harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

January 19, 2006 at 04:45 PM | Permalink

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