Fed. Judge Departs from Guidelines, Says Crack Sentences Too Long

Cheers for U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Presnell in Orlando, FL.

Sentencing Law and Policy reports that in US v. Hamilton, (pdf) No. 6:05-cr-157-Orl-31JGG (M.D. Fla. Mar. 16, 2006), the Judge refused to apply the draconian federal crack cocaine guidelines because they are irrational in comparison to the severity of the offense. Using the Booker case (argued in the Supreme Court by TalkLeft co-blogger TChris) that rendered the guidelines advisory rather than mandatory, Judge Presnell ruled:

This arbitrary and discriminatory disparity between powder and crack cocaine implicates the Section 3553(a)(2)(A) factors. Unless one assumes the penalties for powder cocaine are vastly too low, then the far-higher penalties for crack are at odds with the seriousness of the offense. The absence of a logical rationale for such a disparity and its disproportionate impact on one historically disfavored race promotes disrespect for the law and suggests that the resulting sentences are unjust. Accordingly, these statutory factors weigh heavily against the imposition of a Guidelines sentence.

For more courts addressing the disparity between crack and powder sentences since Booker, go here. My thoughts are available here, taken from two articles I wrote on the subject in 1997 and 1998.

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    Re: Fed. Judge Departs from Guidelines, Says Crack (none / 0) (#1)
    by scarshapedstar on Fri Mar 17, 2006 at 12:54:36 AM EST
    Heavens to murgatroid, activist judges! It says in the Bible that thou shalt sendest the black man to thine prison for not two, not ten, but ten times ten times as long as thou would a white man. Why doesn't he respect our traditional values?

    Re: Fed. Judge Departs from Guidelines, Says Crack (none / 0) (#2)
    by roger on Fri Mar 17, 2006 at 07:40:42 AM EST
    Judge Presnell is a great Judge. That being said, it would be a mistake to call him "soft" or "left". Just a good, intelligent judge.