So, in 2 cases that goes strongly against my law and order opinion of harsh sentences, on Monday, the Supreme Court decided that judges should have more liberty to give sentences that fit the crime better instead of following sentencing guidelines set down by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The act dealt mostly with drugs since it was in the War on Drugs era. The decision stemmed from 2 cases:
In one case (Gall v. U.S.), the court upheld probation for Brian Gall, an Arizona man who admitted he sold Ecstasy while attending college in Iowa. The sentencing guidelines called for about 3 years in prison. In the other case (Kimbrough v. U.S.), the court upheld a 15-year prison term for Derrick Kimbrough, a Gulf War veteran from Norfolk, Virgina, who was for possessing a gun and crack cocaine in his car. The federal recommendations suggested a prison sentence of 19 to 22 years. In both of these cases, federal lawyers argued for the longer prison terms and said that judges should be required to follow the sentencing guidelines, but the Supreme Court disagreed, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissenting.
Judges have been complaining that having to follow the sentencing guidelines is unfair for them and forces them into giving what is sometimes too harsh of a punishment.
Three years ago, the Court said that the guidelines were purely “advisory,” but this case will allow them now to completely ignore the guidelines. It is unclear whether or not a judge can issue a sentence above the sentencing guidelines though.
In his dissent of Kimbrough v. United States, Justice Thomas said “We are asked here to determine whether, under the new advisory Guidelines regime, district courts may impose sentences based in part on their disagreement with a categorical policy judgment reflected in the Guidelines. But the Court’s answer to that question necessarily derives from something other than the statutory language or congressional intent because Congress, by making the Guidelines mandatory, quite clearly intended to bind district courts to the Sentencing Commission’s categorical policy judgments.”
In his dissent of Gall v. United States, Justice Alito said, “It is unrealistic to think this goal [of reducing sentencing disparities] can be achieved over the long term if sentencing judges need only give lip service to the Guidelines.”
I for one think that the judges should be following the guidelines set down by the Congress. The Legislative branch was given the power by the Constitution to set down laws and to give an appropriate range for punishments and the judges do NOT have the right to break that range. What we need to happen is (perhaps in a few years when we have a Supreme Court that upholds the values of law and order) have a judge give a sentence ABOVE the suggestions, wait for an appeal and have this case overturned.
It has always been my opinion that we need harsher penalties for crimes, and I have always been a strong backer of 3-strikes sentencing laws. The harsher we get on criminals, the less likely they’ll be to commit crimes, and I am one to support the maximum penalty 99% of the time. Speaking of penalties, with the New Jersey death penalty situation, I’ll have what will be somewhat of a part 2 of this law and order subject.
Tags: Arizona, Brian Gall, Clarence Thomas, Congress, Constitution, Court, Court Case, crime, Criminal, Death, Death penalty, Derrick Kimbrough, Dissent, Drugs, Ecstasy, Gall v. United States, Iowa, Judicial branch, Kimbrough v. United States, Law and Order, Legislative branch, Legislators, New Jersey, Norfolk, Politics, prison, Samuel Alito, Sentence, Sentencing Reform Act, Supreme Court, Virginia, War on Drugs