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August 16, 2008

Effective review of implementation of crack retroactivity

This local article, headlined "Virginia leads in crack sentence reductions," provides a terrific review of some of the latest realities in the retroactive application of the new federal crack guidelines.  Here are some excerpts from the article:

Virginia leads the nation in the number of prisoners who've had sentences reduced under new federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine, U.S. Sentencing Commission numbers show.

Federal judges in Virginia have lowered the sentences of at least 825 prisoners since the new rules took effect March 3 — with the average prisoner getting more than two years cut from a sentence, according to a recent report from the commission.  Judges have granted sentence reductions to 65 percent of the 1,271 federal prisoners in Virginia whose applications were acted upon by July 22.  The numbers don't show how many have been released from prison....

Eastern Virginia — where crack-cocaine arrests were numerous throughout the 1990s, particularly with an anti-gun initiative called Project Exile and other efforts — is the nationwide region most affected by the new guidelines.... The change applies only to crack convictions in federal courts, not state courts.  Under Virginia's sentencing guidelines, crack offenses are treated equally with those for powdered cocaine.

Each case, typically filed by a defense attorney or the defendant, is looked at by prosecutors before judges make a ruling on a reduction.  Before the new guidelines took effect, there was a concern that the crack-sentencing reductions would take too much time from prosecutors' other cases.  That was a big reason the Bush administration opposed applying the new guidelines retroactively to people in prison.

But Deanna Warren, a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's Norfolk office, said it hadn't been a problem.  The work is divvied out to prosecutors on a rotating basis. Judges, too, she said, have efficiently pushed cases through. "I think our system has worked," she said. "It's been very smooth, once we got the system down. The court has done a great job. Everybody has done their fair share."...

The average successful applicant in the Eastern District has seen prison time reduced by 29 months, or nearly 2 1/2 years.  That's a 18 percent cut from the average 13-year sentence.

So it seems that the "sky-will-fall" chicken-little-type concerns, which were expressed by AG Mukasey and other DOJ folks in an effort to prevent the new crack guidelines from being retroactive, were overblown.  I am not surprised, and I am pleased to see prosecutors now admitting that they have been able to do better backward-looking justice without being too concerned with how much time retroactive justice is taking away from future prosecutions.

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Does anyone know whether these defendants are all receiving attorneys?

Posted by: question | Aug 16, 2008 7:22:05 PM

I was released June of this year due to the crack law. i recieved 8 months off my sentance of 39 months (original sentance 87 months-recieved prior reduction). Unfortunately, my co-defendant was not so fortunate. He did not qualify for the safety-valve due to a gun enhancement (my lawyer successfully argued against it), received minimum mandatory 10 years thus eliminating him from benefiting from the crack law. We are open to suggestions as to how to circumvent this.

Posted by: sandi | Aug 31, 2008 10:56:28 AM

Thank you very much for this useful article.

Posted by: sohbet | Oct 15, 2008 4:56:24 PM

Thank you very much

Posted by: müzik dinle | Oct 15, 2008 4:57:02 PM

thanks a lot

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Posted by: saad | Feb 18, 2009 7:40:08 AM

Okay My father rec'd a life sentence plus 60 months for crack cocaine, in 94-95.Mr Groves doesn't have any violent or murder charges. But still rec'd a harsh sentence. Due to not taking a plea baragin. His mother rec'd 24 yrs and she was 70 something when she rec'd her time. I don't know who i would contact but if you could i need some help...thank you so much..Im not a student or an attorney im just a regular person that needs some help thank you so much!

Posted by: TaMeeka | Jul 17, 2009 12:13:56 PM

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