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January 1, 2009

"New Sentencing Guidelines For Crack, New Challenges"

The title of this post is the title of this article in today's Washington Post. Here are a few snippets:

From March through the first week of December, federal judges in the Eastern District of Virginia and in Maryland granted more than 800 such requests and denied about 490. Judges in the District have granted more than 160 and denied nine. Lawyers said Virginia's federal courts have received a large number of applications filed by inmates representing themselves, and many are not eligible for reductions. In the District, the federal public defender is coordinating the effort....

In many cases, prosecutors didn't contest the reductions because the convicts were near the end of their sentences.  In others, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on reductions within the new guideline.  Thousands more cases remain, among them hundreds in Washington area federal courthouses. They have been more difficult to resolve, prosecutors and defense attorneys said....

Lawyers say some cases present such complex legal issues that they expect appeals. Certain cases are so difficult that, even when prosecutors agree that an offender is a candidate for a reduction, both sides disagree on how much.  Prosecutors say some convicts don't deserve much of a break because of bad conduct or criminal history.  And some offenders, they say, deserve no leniency at all.

Though not mentioned in this article, one of the challenges facing the courts concerns whether defendants who pled guilty under special terms when the old guidelines were applicable should get the benefit of the new guidelines.  This issue split a Fourth Circuit panel earlier this week in US v. Dews, No. 08-6458 (4th Cir. Dec. 30, 2008) (available here).  Stated precisely, the majority decided that two particular crack sentences imposed following a plea under Rule 11(e)(1)(C) were eligible for reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); the dissent claimed that sister circuits had held in other settings that sentences pursuant to 11(e)(1)(C) pleas could not be reduced.

January 1, 2009 at 08:26 PM | Permalink

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