Abuse of Power?
Columnist George Will, writing in the Washington Post, throws a much-needed light on federal prosecutorial abuses in drug cases. (See article.) Will outlines several cases where prosecutors use mandatory drug sentences to bludgeon defendants into guilty pleas. The sentencing structure originates in the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, passed in reaction to the hysteria around crack cocaine. Will notes that thousands of people are now serving what are essentially life sentences in federal prisons for drug offenses.
Some federal judges are rebelling against the mandatory sentences and prosecutors’ use of them to extort guilty pleas from minor offenders and sometimes innocent defendants. Federal Judge John Gleeson says of these cases “Judging is removed, prosecutors become sentencers.” And when threats of draconian sentences compel guilty pleas, “some innocent people will plead guilty.”
There is the beginning of a political movement to rescind the some of the most onerous provisions of the 1986 law, a movement led by Senators Paul Leahy and Rand Paul. Judge Gleeson writes eloquently on the matter which should be concern to all those who value freedom in this country. You can read Gleeson’s entire document here.