Tuesday, March 30, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Bloch Sentencing

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today on a sentence out of the Federal Court for the Western District of Pennyslvania. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Judge Alan N. Bloch sentenced Percy Dillon for selling crack and powder cocaine in 1993.

"I don't say to you that these penalties are fair. I don't think they are fair," Judge Bloch said at the time. "I think they are entirely too high for the crime you have committed even though it is a serious crime."

In 2008,Dillon submitted a motion to get his sentence reduced under a newly enacted amendment designed to address the inequity between powder and crack cocaine guidelines.

Federal prosecutors will argue today before the Supreme Court that the proceedings to reduce crack penalties are not resentencings -- which fall under the findings of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005) and require full hearings and defense counsel -- but only a modification.

In its brief, the Department of Justice wrote that the crack reductions are a "one-way ratchet to lower a defendant's otherwise-final sentence.

"Were this court to accept the proposition that district courts must be granted unlimited discretion to make sentence adjustments [in crack] proceedings, every retroactive guidelines amendment would carry the potential to reopen thousands of sentences."

Thus far, 23,000 defendants have sought reductions and 15,000 have been granted, resulting in an average decreased prison time of 25 months, the government said.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission argued in a brief in support of the government that changing the scope of sentence reductions would weigh against making similar guideline amendments retroactive in the future, in part because of the administrative burden that would come with it.

To Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10087/1046268-84.stm#ixzz0jfFZjnqw

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