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February 11, 2005

More reports on the House hearing

Providing additional coverage of the House Booker hearing on Thursday are this Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) and a Bloomberg news report.  Spotlighting the data/anecdote concerns detailed in this post, I found notable that the AP's headline (linked here) was "Data: Judges Adhere to Sentence Guidelines," while the Bloomberg piece carries the headline "Bush Administration Says Sentence Disparities Rise."  Life is all a matter of perspective, ain't it?

Providing additional perspective on the hearing, an insightful reader in attendence shared with me (and has allowed me to share with everyone) these thoughts and observations:

1.  Republicans on the subcommittee had some great questions and were not lined up behind Jay Apperson.  He seemed to supply Chairman Coble questions, but the rest were clearly on their own.  I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and depth of their inquiries; it was one of the best hearings I've ever attended (which, of course, is not saying much in light of the usual level of posturing, but I really was pleasantly surprised.)  For example, Rep. Flake from Arizona asked Wray why not wait a year and see how things go.  Others revealed similar depth.  In contrast, the dems (with the outstanding exception of Bobby Scott who was his usual well prepared and unflappable self) did not seem as well prepared and used their time to talk about the crack/powder disparity (a subject of course worth ranting about, but this is not the time and place to use one's entire allotment of time on the subject it strikes me); they didn't use their time to highlight contradictions, ask probing questions.

2. There was some playfulness today. For example, Frank Bowman said he felt like Ricky Ricardo saying to Lucy "I got a lot of 'splainin' to do" before commencing to recant [his support of the Bowman fix], and Judge Hinojosa later was moved to quote RR's line "Aye, Carumba!"

3.  Frank Bowman came through with flying colors and got off easy in the questions; I think his falling on his sword was wasted on the members of the Committee but means a great deal to the others.

4.  Collins was the stalking horse.  I wonder what is keeping the DOJ so quiet, though they have begun to signal their next moves. Is it really only that Gonzales is just on board?

5.  The record is open for a week.  If anyone sees something that ought to be put in after reading the testimony, do so.  I think one can send such things to Rep. Scott.

6. Mr. Wray was asked by Bobby Scott to back up his repeated, and unsupported assertions that the federal sentencing guidelines have caused the 30 low in the crime rate.  He couldn't, but Wray promised to get back to the Committee.  That should be interesting.  Mr. Scott cited a study from Virginia to the effect that when Project Exile was instituted in Richmond Virginia, the crime rate fell.  However, in the cities outside Richmond that did not participate in P.E., the crime rate fell even more.

7. There is some concern that the Commission might try to draft some legislation to address concerns raised by DOJ.  It strikes me that they will do best doing what they do best.  Sending draft language at a time when the rest of the world is saying, let it work for awhile, sends the wrong message.

February 11, 2005 at 05:48 AM | Permalink


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Please note that "Aye Carumba" may also be attributed to Bart Simpson.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Feb 11, 2005 12:02:28 PM

I thought it interesting that one of the Republican congressmen, from Texas, remarked at the hearings that Texas has a bifurcated sentencing system. He wondered if the federal system could be set up to have jury factfinding at sentencing. Judge Hinojosa speculated that it could perhaps be accomplished with rule changes. Mr. Wray, who testified for the DOJ said that the Department thought such a jury based system could lead to more disparity.

Posted by: Mary | Feb 11, 2005 12:18:59 PM

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