Supreme Court To Hear Crack Cocaine Sentencing Case Tuesday

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a crack cocaine case. The case is Percy Dillon v. U.S., and the issue is whether the two level reduction in federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine implemented a few years ago allows judges, when implementing the reduction, to conduct a complete resentencing.

Many defendants were sentenced to huge terms of imprisonment for crack when the guidelines were mandatory. Since Booker in 2005, they have become discretionary. So when a defendant files a motion to have his or her sentence reduced under the guideline amendment, shouldn't the Judge be allowed to resentence under current law, treating the guidelines as advisory only? Put another way, shouldn't Booker be followed for sentencing modification decisions?

The case could have big ramifications: [More...]

The case has particularly important potential to affect perhaps tens of thousands of new sentencing proceedings for those convicted of dealing in crack cocaine, since the U.S. Sentencing Commission has revised downward the range of sentences for those crimes, and has made those changes retroactive. If judges have no discretion to set a sentence below the minimum in the new range (as they are allowed to do in initial sentencing), many individuals would not be allowed to take advantage of the reductions, or would at best receive significantly less benefit.”

The Third Circuit said no (opinion here.) Percy Dillon says Booker applies to all resentencings where a new sentence is imposed in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The Justice Department says no. Interestingly, the Supreme Court took the case when there was no split in the circuits. All circuits have held the re-sentencing only allows the granting of the two level reduction. The defendant in this case, a first time offender who got 27 years, is a sympathetic one.

The questions presented:

I. Whether the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are binding when a district court imposes a new sentence pursuant to a revised guideline range under 18 U.S.C. §3582.

II. Whether during a § 3582©(2) sentencing, a district court is required to impose sentence based on an admittedly incorrectly calculated guideline range.

The documents:

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    I'll try to give you a report of the argument (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 07:35:01 PM EST
    I'm heading down to DC from Philly to hear my friend, Pittsburgh Federal Public Defender Lisa Freeland, argue Dillon on Tuesday morning.  Lisa will be followed that morning by what could actually be the biggest criminal sentencing case of the year:  Steve Sady, ace Deputy Federal PD for Oregon, arguing Barber, which challenges the formula by which the federal Bureau of Prisons calculates the good conduct time reduction rate, 15% vs. 12.8% -- effectively cheating nearly every federal prisoner out of a week per year of credit.  ("Jailhouse lawyers" -- principally the brilliant Scott Holland, who served five years in a marijuana smuggling case -- starting pushing this argument back in 1996 or so, but courts kept ruling against them, and the Supremes only agreed to hear it this year. Net result, millions of wasted dollars and hundreds of wasted years of excess imprisonment.)  I helped with the briefing in both cases.

    Here's a nice article (none / 0) (#2)
    by Peter G on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 09:15:56 PM EST
    it's also my first link in the post (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Mar 28, 2010 at 10:35:01 PM EST
    Thanks though, we agree.

    If by your "spam" alert you're referring (none / 0) (#6)
    by Peter G on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 09:16:37 AM EST
    to the links I posted under former jailhouse lawyer Scott Holland's name, ShoePhone, I only meant to show the interesting things that he's up to now, since serving his sentence.  I apologize if it seemed like I meant to be promoting those projects; that was not my intent.  If you're referring to something else, it's not clear what.  

    Most Likely (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 09:33:55 AM EST
    A spam comment that was already deleted by Jeralyn.

    I never quite understood why the email identifying spam is not zapped with the spam. Must be out of politeness, or something.


    Ah, yes ... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Peter G on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 10:56:06 AM EST
    Comment #4 is missing.  I should have noticed that before getting all defensive.  Thanks, Squeaky.