Will help end more than 20 years of racial inequity in federal sentencing
Washington, DC (April 28, 2007) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has fought for fairness in drug sentencing since the first set of U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was drafted 20 years ago. NACDL has actively participated in the guidelines comment and amendment process continuously since then. On May 1, the Sentencing Commission will send an amendment to the cocaine base (“crack”) guideline to Congress which will bring some small measure of fairness back into drug sentences, and NACDL supports the new guideline as a sensible and progressive first step toward ending the unfair disparity in cocaine sentencing.
Federal drug sentences for possession and sale are based on the weight of the controlled substance. For two decades, the federal sentencing guidelines have treated possession of one gram of cocaine base as the equivalent of 100 grams of powder cocaine. According to the Sentencing Commission, the proposed amendment will bring the federal sentencing guideline more closely into line with the mandatory minimum penalties set by Congress for possession of crack cocaine.
NACDL President-Elect Carmen Hernandez testified in favor of harmonizing the penalties for crack and powder cocaine before the Sentencing Commission during hearings last fall, asking the Commission to fix what it could and recommend to Congress that it fully remedy this long-standing injustice.
At the association’s spring board meeting in Cincinnati today, Ms. Hernandez, a Washington, D.C.-based federal criminal defense lawyer, again observed, “The Commission has long recognized that the current guidelines scheme is unjust, and an amendment is long overdue. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact that 83 percent of inmates serving time in the federal system for crack cocaine are minorities, and their sentences are more than 50 percent longer than inmates serving time for cocaine powder, even though crack defendants tend to be low-level street dealers. In fact, the average sentence for possession of crack cocaine is far longer than the average sentences for violent crimes such as robbery and sexual abuse.”
Congress has six months to consider the Commission’s May 1 amendments. If Congress takes no action, the new guidelines will become effective on Nov. 1, 2007.
NACDL urges Congress to respect the Commission’s decision, which was made after consideration of the testimony and evidence that it has reviewed at Congress’ direction for more than a decade and allow these amendments to go into effect. We also recommend to Congress that it carefully consider the reports and evidence the Commission has compiled and complete the task started by the Commission by finally eliminating the injustice built into the current 100-1 disparity between cocaine powder and crack sentencing.
Ms. Hernandez’s Nov. 15, 2006, written testimony is available on the Commission’s Web site at: http://www.ussc.gov/hearings/11_15_06/Hernandez-NACDL-testimony.pdf.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.