Scooter Judge: Crack Penalties "Unconscionable"

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, who presides over the Scooter Libby case, testified today at the U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing on crack-powder cocaine penalties.

Judge Walton was a deputy drug czar and top drug policy advisor to President G.H. Bush.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton told the U.S. Sentencing Commission that federal laws requiring dramatically longer sentences for crack cocaine than for cocaine powder were "unconscionable" and contributed to the perception within minority communities that courts are unfair.

"I never thought that the disparity should be as severe as it has become," said Walton, who sits on the bench in Washington, where he previously served as a Superior Court judge, a federal prosecutor and a deputy drug czar.

The Sentencing Commission has recommended revising the draconian crack penalties three times and is again holding hearings on the issue.

The current law includes what critics have called the 100-to-1 disparity: Trafficking in 5 grams of cocaine carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence, but it takes 500 grams of cocaine powder to warrant the same sentence.

The Justice Department wants the penalties to remain the same.

The Bush administration, like the Clinton administration, indicated Tuesday that it welcomed a discussion about the sentencing disparity but adamantly opposed lowering the penalties for crack.

Then what part of the discussion are they welcoming? Would they like the crack penalties to be raised? To what? Death by firing squad? What would they like the life sentences increased to? Life plus cancer?

More on this yesterday, here.

< A Crumbling Meme on Gates, Cheney and Iraq | ACLU at the Crack-Powder Cocaine Hearing >
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    by Deconstructionist on Tue Nov 14, 2006 at 04:10:14 PM EST
     A disparity can be cured in two ways. Raising one or lowering the other.

      One thing I would like to see is a broader and more potent safety valve. The limitation to 1 criminal history point can be really unfair in some cases such as when a person has 2 non-violent misdemeanors or even one just  misdemeanor but the person is still on probation, etc, when the offense was committed. I'd also like to see the safety-valve trigger more than a 2 level decrease in the offense level.