A Fix-It Day for Broken Down Justice
Yesterday, the Supreme Court took another step toward making drug sentences fair, and New Jersey's senate endorsed the only logical way to make the death penalty fair -- it voted to abolish capital punishment in the Garden State.
These two big, meaty legal stories are not nearly as disconnected as you might think. When deciding Kimbrough v. United States, seven Supreme Court justices agreed that Congress had been unresponsive to the executive branch's requests to fix the discrepancy between crack cocaine sentences and ones for powder cocaine.
And when New Jersey's state legislators voted to abolish the death penalty, they acknowledged that Congress, the White House and the courts had been unresponsive to requests from the nation's legal community to make capital punishment quicker and more thorough.
In both cases, fed-up men and women decided to push through the political inertia to begin to fix some of the long-broken parts of the system.
The Supreme Court's summary in Kimbrough reveals the scope of Congressional lethargy: "The [U.S. Sentencing] Commission has several times sought to achieve a reduction in the crack/powder ratio. Congress rejected a 1995 amendment to the Guidelines that would have replaced the 100-to-1 ratio with a 1-to-1 ratio, but directed the Commission to propose revision of the ratio under the relevant statutes and Guidelines. Congress took no action after the Commission's 1997 and 2002 reports recommended changing the ratio." In other words, Congress did less than nothing.
That's part of why the Court acted yesterday. And it is part of why, later today, the Commission is scheduled to vote on a measure that would apply new, reasonable sentencing ratios retroactively for thousands of drug convicts.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, change came because legislators were willing to admit that the "death penalty experience" in their state had failed -- no one has been executed in New Jersey since 1963.
The New York Times adds this nugget: New Jersey's "procedures for carrying out an execution were declared unconstitutional in 2004 by a state appeals court, and the Department of Corrections has said it has no intention of rewriting them." So "how can I argue the deterrent effect of the death penalty when we haven't had one?" asked Senate President Richard Codey (R-Essex).
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Constitutionalist | December 11, 2007 10:42 AM
Posted by: ignoramus | December 11, 2007 12:14 PM
Posted by: headliner | December 11, 2007 12:23 PM
Posted by: ExAUSA | December 11, 2007 05:25 PM
Posted by: ghostcommander | December 11, 2007 08:36 PM
Posted by: madhatter | December 12, 2007 03:02 PM
Posted by: LMAO | December 13, 2007 08:05 AM
Posted by: Alan | December 13, 2007 04:06 PM
Posted by: 2ge5r1e5pf | December 20, 2007 08:28 PM
Posted by: urs7neig2h | December 25, 2007 09:46 AM
Posted by: 3n4xrrw6t3 | December 31, 2007 08:55 PM
Posted by: wldml | January 4, 2008 10:22 AM