Supreme Court Upholds Lesser Sentences For Crack

Does cocaine by any other name merit a higher federal drug trafficking sentence? Apparently not. On Monday, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Kimbrough v. United States, No. 06-6330. The Court reviewed the sentence applied to Derrick Kimbrough, who pled guilty in 2005 to possession of a large amount of crack cocaine. The sentencing judge, noting the disparity between the punishments for cocaine powder and rock (crack) cocaine, decided to cut ten years off the recommended sentence. That decision has been upheld.

Last month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to reduce the disparity between powder and rock cocaine, which is seen by many to be an irrational and racially disparate sentencing rule. The seven member commission meets today to decide whether or not to make that change retroactive. If they vote yes, the federal drug sentences of nearly twenty thousand current inmates may be altered.

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