President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby’s prison term, saying:
I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.
Based on that reasoning, here are some suggestions for the President regarding future pardons and commutations.
Felony Drug Offenders: It is a myth that defendants do not serve prison time for simple possession of controlled substances. For example, in Texas, 1 gram of cocaine (the equivalent of a sweet and low packet) carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. Any amount of prison for possession of small amounts of cocaine or heroin is excessive; therefore, pardons for all are in order.
Crack vs. Powder Cocaine Offenders in the Federal System: the Federal Sentencing Guidelines mandate a five year minimum prison sentence for 5 grams of crack; the same minimum doesn’t kick in until 100 times that amount for powder cocaine. Arbitrary? Yes. Capricious? Yes. Excessive? Of course…many more pardons coming.
Three Strikes and You’re Out for Petty Offenses: The most famous case is Leandro Andrade’s. His case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, who upheld his 25 years to Life sentence for theft of $150 worth of videotapes. Unfortunately, the public seems to believe that 3 strikes laws apply only to the worst of the worst: murderers, rapists, etc. Too often they are applied in fact to petty criminals. It’s the definition of excessive.
‘Statutory Rape’ Laws: Speaking of real rape, reminds me to mention something that shouldn’t be called rape in the first place: consensual sex. Usually between teenagers, who, had one of them been born a few weeks or months earlier, would not have been criminal. In Texas, we don’t call it ‘Rape’; it’s called sexual assault and that does a great disservice to the public. Genarlow Wilson’s ten year minimum sentence for consensual sex must surely be considered excessive, if Mr. Libby’s two and half year term for intentionally lying and perjury is. Wilson’s case is famous, but tens of thousands of others are imprisoned with no fanfare.
More from the President’s press release:
…the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender… and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.
Imprisonment is inappropriate for first time non-violent offenders… and lengthening sentences for ‘relevant conduct’ based on hearsay and guesswork in PreSentence Investigation(PSI) reports is ridiculous…?
Fine by me. Let’s apply this reasoning to everyone though, shall we?
I’m hoping to hear from other criminal defense attorneys in the blogosphere. Post about your suggestions based on the unreasonable pubishments in your jurisdiction, and let me know about it.