Tag: crack cocaine

The Tragic Story of Eugenia Jennings ( Sentence Commuted by Obama)

President Obama has decided to pardon more than a White House turkey this Thanksgiving. Yesterday, he issued 5 pardons and commuted one sentence.

The pardons are unimpressive. Three of the pardons were issued to people who had received probation more than a decade ago. The other two pardons were issued to people who finished serving their sentences 20 years ago.

On the other hand, the commutation deserves praise: Obama commuted the sentence of a woman named Eugenia Jennings, who was sentenced in 2001 to 22 years (262 months) for distributing crack cocaine in the Southern District of Illinois. It was her third felony crack conviction. Under Obama's order, she'll be released next week, after serving 10 years. She'll still have to serve 8 years of supervised release.

I just finished reading her 2001 sentencing transcript and her rejected 2008 motion to reduce her sentence under the Sentencing Commission's two level reduction in crack cocaine guidelines that year. Both are available on PACER. It's a very interesting story, one the sentencing judge, G. Patrick Murphy, called a tragedy.

Here's the tragedy of Eugenia Jennings:[More...]

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First Crack Inmates Released as New Guidelines Take Effect

Antwain Black was the first inmate freed from federal prison yesterday, the day the new retroactive U.S. sentencing guidelines went into effect, implementing the lower penalties for crack cocaine offenses in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. (The act reduced the ratio of crack/powder cocaine penalties from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1.)

Hopefully, Mr. Black will be the first of thousands. It is estimated that about 12,000 prisoners will see a reduction of about three years in their sentences. The Courts have been planning for the motions for months. Here's how it will work in the District of Colorado.

Not every inmate sentenced for crack will get a reduction. FAMM has this handy FAQ outlining the requirements.

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NY Federal Judge Blasts Mandatory Minimums in Drug Cases

Via Law Prof Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy: Judge Jack Weinstein has written another scathing indictment of our drug sentencing laws and policy in a multi-defendant crack cocaine case.

The case is United States v. Bannister, No. 10-CR-0053 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 24, 2011), and the 125 page opinion is available here. Some quotes below:[ More...]

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Newly Released Crack Cocaine Defendants: How Are They Faring?

The Washington Post today reports on some crack defendants who were able to leave prison early due to the recent retroactive sentencing guideline reductions. They seem to be coping pretty well, considering the changed world they've returned to after a decade or more behind bars.

More than 7,000 crack cocaine offenders ... have received reduced sentences since March, when the U.S. Sentencing Commission put retroactive sentence guidelines into effect to offset what the commission felt were overly harsh punishments for crack cocaine related crimes, and it is an open question whether they will succeed or return to a life behind bars.

....Nearly 90 percent of those who received the tough sentences for crack cocaine were black men and women. Most users and dealers of powder cocaine are white and Latino.

There were 19,500 federal inmates serving sentences for crack when the reduction went into effect in March. Many aren't eligible for the reduction for a variety of technical reasons. For others, mandatory minimum sentencing laws which trump the guidelines will prevent them from getting a reduced sentence. The Government files objections to scores of requests, arguing either that the reduction doesn't apply to a particular defendant or the court should exercise its discretion and deny the relief.

The recent reduction is but a first baby step towards what's needed to reintroduce fairness into our federal criminal justice system. [More...]

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3,000 Crack Cocaine Sentences Reduced To Date

The U.S. Sentencing Commission says 3,000 crack cocaine sentences have been reduced since the guideline amendment went into effect in March.

There are 19,500 inmates serving time for crack cocaine.

In the 40 or so motions I've seen filed in Colorado (cases in which I had one of many co-defendants) the Government seems to file an objection to every request. It either says the guideline doesn't apply or the court should exercise its discretion and deny the relief.

I've mentioned before that the reductions are small, and only apply to a limited group of defendants. I only have one client out of dozens of crack defendants I've represented who appears to be eligible for relief. Sure enough, the Government is opposing the request.

The Sentencing Commission's report is great news for the 3,000 who have obtained relief so far, but it's a drop in the bucket as to what's needed. Congress needs to change the mandatory minumum sentencing laws. It needs to make the penalties for crack cocaine and powder the same without raising the levels for powder. [More....]

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