#299 Supreme Court Rules On Sentencing Guidelines

Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005
Subject: #299 Supreme Court Rules On Sentencing Guidelines


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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #299 – Mon, 17 Jan 2005

Last week’s pair of decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court on federal
sentencing brought a welcome ruling and also create concerns that
Congress will rewrite the sentencing guidelines in an even more harsh

The first decision ruled appropriately that federal sentencing
guidelines violate the right to a jury trial. Prosecutors routinely
raised various peripheral issues – not heard by the jury – that unduly
increased the length of a sentence.

The second decision changed the way federal judges determine
sentences, ruling they no longer are required to follow sentencing
guidelines – in fact mandatory rules written by a sentencing
commission – that have been in place for two decades. The court found
the sentencing guidelines unconstitutional because judges factored
them into the calculation after conviction – a violation of the Sixth

Prior to the ruling, 97% of federal defendants pled guilty – as a
result of a plea bargain – to reduced charges in order to avoid a jury
trial which could result in a much longer sentence. Thus federal
prosecutors made the decisions that led to the length of sentence –
which the judge followed using the so-called guidelines, as required.

We doubt that there are many United States daily newspapers that have
not provided news coverage of the decision. Many have, or will, carry
editorial page content on the decision. Thus letters to the editor of
your local papers, as well as those shown as having clippings in the
MAP archive, are appropriate.

Either the links http://www.mapinc.org/topics/federal+sentencing or
http://www.mapinc.org/topics/sentencing+guidelines will bring up a
list of potential targets for your letters. Because editorial page
content makes superb targets for your letters, we have created a list
linking to much of that content to date, below.

A blog written by Nora Callahan, executive director of the November
Coalition has ideas for your letter writing efforts. Start at
http://november.org/blog/index.php/20050113 and move forward thru the
blog using the calendar on the upper right of the page.

The Drug Policy Alliance wrote “The Court’s decision now opens the
door for Congress to address the issue of harsh federal sentences. But
there’s no telling what Congress might do with this opportunity. In
fact, we already know that some in Congress will take the Supreme
Court decision as an opportunity to increase prison sentences for
nonviolent drug offenders.” Please visit this page for more
information – and actions you may take: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/011205sentencing.cfm

Thanks for your effort and support.

It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Links to Editorial Page Clippings

Published Thursday, January 13th

US IL: Editorial: High Court Tweaks Rules in the Interest of Fairness

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n085/a06.html

US NM: OPED: A Just Plea

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n076/a02.html

Published Friday, January 14th

US DC: Editorial: The Court on Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n075/a11.html

US NY: Editorial: Letting Judges Pass Judgment

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n091/a05.html

US MA: Editorial: Judicious Leeway

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n075/a10.html

US NY: Editorial: High Court’s Gift to Judges

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n075/a05.html

US MD: Editorial: Sentencing Sanity

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n085/a05.html

US NY: Editorial: Justice Pendulum Swings

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n092/a04.html

US TX: Editorial: Supreme Court’s Sensible Changes to Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n092/a03.html

US ME: Editorial: Supreme Court Ruling Better for Justice

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05.n085.a02.html

US OR: Editorial: A Better Way to Set Prison Time

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n083/a10.html

US MO: Editorial: Court’s Decisions Tilt Toward Justice

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n082/a01.html

US CO: Editorial: Elbow Room for U.S. Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n075/a07.html

US MN: Column: Court Deepens Sentencing Doubts

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n092/a02.html

Published Saturday, January 15th

US VT: Editorial: Sensible Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n083/a12.html

US PA: Editorial: Federal Sentencing Guidelines Give High Court’s Ruling a

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n084/a03.html

US MI: Editorial: Let Judges Be Judges

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n085/a07.html

US IA: Editorial: Allow Federal Judges Discretion in Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n082/a04.html

US KY: Editorial: Rethinking Sentences

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n082/a03.html

US FL: Editorial: More Discretion for Judges

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n083/a11.html

Published Sunday, January 16th

US IL: Editorial: A Verdict on Sentencing

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n093/a04.html

US WI: Editorial: Remedying an Injustice

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n093/a03.html

US PA: Editorial: Sentencing Guidelines: Restoring the 6th

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n085/a04.html

US GA: Editorial: Mandatory Sentencing Rejection a Wise Ruling

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05/n093/a07.html

US CA: Column: When Congress Plays Judge

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05.n089.a10.html

Published Monday, January 17th

US UT: Editorial: Checks and Balances

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05.n094.a14.html

US WA: Editorial: Judicial Discretion

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05.n094.a01.html

US RI: Editorial: Judges and Juries

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v05.n094.a13.html


Additional suggestions for writing letters to the editor are

Writer’s Resources http://www.mapinc.org/resource/



Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org if you are not
subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others
can learn from your efforts.

Subscribing to the Sent LTE list (sentlte@mapinc.org) will help you to
review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or
approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing

To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see



Prepared by: Stephen Heath, MAP’s Media Activism Facilitator

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