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April 29, 2009

Watching the webcast of the Senate crack disparity hearing

As detailed in this official notice, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs will hold a hearing at 10am this morning entitled "Restoring Fairness to Federal Sentencing: Addressing the Crack-Powder Disparity."  Though I do not plan to live-blog the event, I do plan to try to watch the live webcast from this link.  And I hope readers feel free to use the comments to provide real-time commentary or any notable moments from the event.

Some recent related posts:

UPDATE:  As I am watching Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer testify via webcast, I received an e-mail from FAMM titled "Today is an historic day for sentencing reform!," and it starts this way:

This morning, the U.S. Department of Justice is announcing that it supports replacing the controversial 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine with an even 1:1 ratio.  DOJ's announcement, included in testimony to be delivered on Capitol Hill by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, marks the first time the Justice Department has publicly endorsed equalization of the penalties between crack and powder cocaine.... FAMM member Cedric Parker is the final witness at the hearing.

The significance of today's announcement cannot be overstated.  For years, FAMM has argued that individualized and proportionate sentencing does not jeopardize public safety. Today, the U.S. Justice Department — the nation's top law enforcement agency, the overseer of every federal prosecutor in the United States — agreed with us. DOJ's new position on crack penalties acknowledges that we need not sacrifice safety for sentencing fairness.  The nation's top cops say we can have both!

And I just heard AAG Breuer state that DOJ now wants "this Congress to completely eliminate the crack/powder disparity."  He also has says that AG Holder has created a working group on federal sentencing that will work toward a better sentencing structure for how to deal with these matters.

MORE:  Here are early reports on this hearing from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

April 29, 2009 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


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I find this DOJ position disingenuous. In the crack disparity litigation I am doing, the U.S. Attorney's Office is taking the position that my client is not entitled to retroactive application of the two point Amendment 706/711 reduction because he entered into an 11(c)(1)(C) agreement. The agreement, though, was based entirely on the guidelines and involved a sentencing range. I see prosecutors routinely fashioning new excuses for why my crack convicted client can't get what amounts to about 24 months off of a 15 year sentence. Maybe they will change, but I'm not seeing it yet.

Posted by: Erika Cunliffe | May 5, 2009 3:39:07 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB