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July 17, 2005

Insightful commentary on the Sensenbrenner flap

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders has this thoughtful commentary about the remarkable letters that House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner wrote to the Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit and AG Gonzales concerning decisions in a drug sentencing case.  (Background and commentary on this matter are linked below.)  Here's a taste:

After years of pushing through draconian mandatory-minimum sentences that often force judges to sentence low-level, nonviolent, first-time offenders to years, decades even, behind bars, Sensenbrenner has made himself a grand inquisitor, free to challenge any legal decisions that don't work for him....

Meanwhile, you have to wonder why a member of Congress felt free to hector the judiciary and executive branches. It's not enough for him to write laws.  Now he wants to oversee how cases are tried and make sure that sentences for first-time offenders are long enough....

It's easy for Washington to enact long sentences.  Unlike judges, House members never have to look into the faces of the accused.  They never have to worry if a person who is easily redeemable will lose her young adulthood to prison.  They don't have to see the humanity they lock up. And so they lose their own humanity.

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July 17, 2005 at 11:20 AM | Permalink


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mother of a "conspiracy" son - 188 months in the fed

Well written, raising some great pints...I commend Ms. Saunders for stepping up. Seems like the average (correct me if I'm wrong} sentence for the drug charges runs somewhere between 10-25 years, depending on the criminal history. What's interesting to me, and I'm going to just come out and use the word LAZY: is that most of the defendants give up their right to trial after being told by both the AUSA and their own defense attorneys that they're going to die of old age in prison if they "waste" the taxpayer's money by going to trial and don't "plea" out. And, is it just me or do most "conspiracy" drug charges wave a red flag to judge and jury (if the defendant's so lucky to get to trial...and looking at the stats, not many do) that they don't have to spend much time on the case - and it'll just go right to a plea?
I'd love to hear some feedback.
Ms. Saunders should go on Professor Berman's list...because you know she's probably going to get audited soon (yipes)
Mary, mother of a 22 year old sentenced to 188 months for a "conspiracy

Posted by: mary | Jul 18, 2005 1:27:22 AM

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