Defendants charged with 20-year offenses receive life
Washington, DC (May 20, 2002) -- In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision today allowing the sentences of defendants in a drug-conspiracy case to stand even though not all elements of the government's case were found by a jury, Peter Goldberger, vice chair of the Amicus Curiae committee for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and co-author of their amicus curiae brief in the case, issued the following statement:
"These defendants received sentences of life without parole on account of varying degrees of involvement in a crack cocaine conspiracy, even though they had been charged with and convicted only of a conspiracy carrying a 20-year maximum sentence. The Court agreed that the imposition of these sentences was not only illegal but actually unconstitutional.
"The Supreme Court justified this astonishing result by blaming the defendants' lawyers for not objecting to the illegal sentences at the trial court level. Yet at that time, any objection the lawyers raised would have been contrary to binding precedent, which the Supreme Court itself soon afterwards overruled in the Apprendi decision.
"Despite this, because the lawyers had not objected the Supreme Court applied a special rule to their appeal in which the court will not correct the illegal sentences unless the ''fairness, integrity and public reputation of judicial proceedings demands it.'' We simply cannot agree with the Supreme Court's view that the ''public reputation'' of judicial proceedings is enhanced, much less the fairness and integrity of those proceedings, by the imposition of life sentences on defendants the Court thinks are guilty of participating in a major drug conspiracy, even though they were never charged with or tried for that crime.
"We take heart, however, in the Supreme Court's implicit recognition in the Cotton case that these defendants' sentences were indeed not only illegal but also unconstitutional. Other defendants in other cases who have similar illegal sentences -- of whom there are unfortunately a great many -- may yet win a correction of those sentences if their lawyers did object, or if they can show that their lawyers' failure to object did not satisfy the lawyer's duty under the Sixth Amendment to render effective assistance of counsel to their clients."
The case is U.S. v. Cotton, No. 01-687
Goldberger is a criminal defense lawyer in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at (610) 649-8200.
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.