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July 17, 2007

One prisoner's reaction to Bush's commutation of Libby's prison term

I recently received an e-mail and letter entitled "Page from a Prison Diary," which set forth one prisoner's reaction to President Bush's decision to commute entirely Scooter Libby's prison term.  The text of this "diary entry" is set forth below (and is reprinted here with the author's permission):

PAGE FROM A PRISON DIARY

July 4, 2007

The decision of King George the Dubyah to "fix" the 30 month sentence of his good friend Scooter Libby just came down. It must be nice to have such forgiving padres in high places.  Justice for just us! Too bad us commoners must actually abide by the law, no matter how strict, repressive and draconian.  Our cases were found to be "reasonable" recently by all 12 Circuit Court of Appeals in the country specifically because each of our respective judges adhered to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which were also used to sentence Mr. Libby. Every federal court in the land has held that any sentence meted out according to the Guidelines can't be "excessive" by virtue of the fact that it does conform to Congressional legislation via the Guidelines.

Most people in prison feel like Libby got a raw deal, which is normal when you deal with the feds.  Almost every person that deals with the feds gets shafted in one way or another.  It's just what the feds do.  Prior to coming to prison 30 months would have been unthinkable, now I eat lunch with guys who have been given 30 years or more on little more than the word of a jailhouse snitch, to save his own ass and a "Nifonged" prosecutor.  Our system will devour you if you have little or no money.  Our Criminal Justice "system" is truly "criminal" in every sense of the word.  Why worry about the law when Dubyah says, "Don't do the time if you a friend a mine!" "All animals are equal, some are just more equal than others" is a fitting testament to our biased system of judicial mine fields, fine tuned for maximum harm (to some).

America is a great country but do we really want to lead the rest of the entire planet in locking up millions of our citizens, many times with questionable suspect charges and slanted courts? A similar thing happened many years ago in ancient Rome when Tacitus wrote in his diary, "Rome (and the U.S.) shall suffer now from its laws as it hither to forth suffered from its vices."

Regards form the other side,

July 17, 2007 at 05:56 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I'm less than sympathetic.

America is a great country but do we really want to lead the rest of the entire planet in locking up millions of our citizens, many times with questionable suspect charges and slanted courts?

Rule # 1 - Never overstate your case.

Rule # 2 - Don't worry about the other guy's case; present your own.

Posted by: Lokki | Jul 17, 2007 10:53:04 PM

What a sniveler. I did nine years in the federal system on an ecstasy case, and unless things have drastically changed in the last eight years, this guy is mostly hyperbole. The super vast amount of inmates in any federal prison are there because they belong there, and their sentences are just what they are because of the guidelines (Just as I belonged there for what I had done). In the prisons I was in (three federal correctional institutes) I met about five guys who were innocent (I mean, at least I was very confident they were innocent). This is out of like thousands of men I met. I met a number of men who also were excessively hammered at sentencing.

The Feds do not screw you; you screw yourself by breaking the law. That is as basic as one of Newton’s laws of physics.

The men I knew who were innocent did indeed get screwed by the system – combinations of snitches, Nazi prosecutors, and lying federal agents. But these prisoners were a very small amount. I did meet more men who had been done in by the incompetence of their lawyers. That is a more significant problem in my opinion. The Feds were allowed to get away with excesses (mostly enhanced sentences, but also an occasional framing of an innocent man) by this incompetence.

Everyone knows the sentences in the federal system are too harsh. Everyone knows Bush is not the sharpest hoe in the shed, and that he and his justice department are not the least bit interested in what is going on with the excessive penalties being handed; but this guy is just a twit who loves to sing a song of woe. I met men like him in prison, but they were the minority, most guys just shut up and did their time (for their crime).

Posted by: chris boys | Jul 18, 2007 12:27:38 AM

Yes, we shut up and did our time. But does it change the fact that the laws are draconian. There were once upon a time when a first time non violent criminal were given probation. Gee, how many moons ago was that.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 18, 2007 1:07:20 AM

"I think it not unfair to tell a prospective felon that if he commits his contemplated crime he is exposing himself to a jail sentence of 30 years [the statutory maximum] – and that if, upon conviction, he gets anything less than that he may thank the mercy of a tenderhearted judge (just as he may thank the mercy of a tenderhearted parole commission if he is let out inordinately early, or the mercy of a tenderhearted governor if his sentence is commuted). Will there be disparities? Of course. But the criminal will never get more punishment than he bargained for when he did the crime, and his guilt of the crime (and hence the length of the sentence to which he is exposed) will be determined beyond a reasonable doubt by the unanimous vote of 12 of his fellow citizens."

Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 498 (2000) (Scalia, J., concurring) (original emphasis).

If this guy's sentence is below the statutory max, I don't think he has much to complain about.

Posted by: | Jul 18, 2007 10:58:07 AM

Joe, how about letting the Juries know that if they find the Defendant not guilty of some of the indictments, the Defendant will still be punish for the acquitted indictments. Most people (non Lawyers) are not aware of this.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 18, 2007 11:51:52 AM

The quote from Apprendi:
"...his guilt of the crime (and hence the length of the sentence to which he is exposed) will be determined beyond a reasonable doubt by the unanimous vote of 12 of his fellow citizens."

95% of federal defendants cannot afford to go to trial - there is a high cost in the federal system for this supposed "right".
These defendants' crime and corresponding sentence are not determined beyond a reasonable doubt - they can be sentenced under "relevant conduct" that they never pled guilty to, and in many cases were not aware of until after the plea hearing.
Again, its all about form, not effect. You can sentence someone for conduct for which there was never a guilty plea or guilty verdict - and not have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Just label it "relevant conduct" and all of the above is acceptable.

Posted by: TE | Jul 18, 2007 12:35:58 PM

So in essence, you're saying that you are force to make a deal to have some counts dropped thinking that you're getting a break but you're not. (Relevant conduct)So, if you're negotiating with the government and at first no deal, the government can add more indictments scaring you to force you to make a deal. Meanwhile, they dropped the additional counts and you still get punished for the additional counts. Wow,what a racket.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 18, 2007 2:08:39 PM

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