John Roberts on Drugs
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)
The district judge declined to sentence the defendant according to the Sentencing Guidelines because he disagreed with the Guidelines. As the judge put it, he was “not going to be the instrument of injustice.”
On March 20, 2003, Tucker pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The Guidelines range from 57-71 months’ imprisonment. At the July 18, 2003 pre-sentence hearing, the district court acknowledged Tucker’s drug testing failures, but observed that Tucker had “comported himself as a model citizen since his arrest.”
The district court was not attempting to apply the Guidelines in this case; it instead seemed intent on defying them. A downward departure in sentencing [might or might not apply, but] we vacate Tucker’s sentence and remand for re-sentencing consistent with the Sentencing Guidelines. So long as these Guidelines are the law of the land, we-and the district courts-are obligated to apply them.
The defendant entered into an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty to crack cocaine possession. Following this plea, the sentencing guidelines federal judges must consider when they impose prison terms were retroactively revised to lower the prison time required in crimes involving cocaine base [crack cocaine], which were higher than those for powder cocaine. The law permitted defendants who were sentenced based upon the old guideline to seek the lower prison sentence if the guideline was revised downward.
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Sandra Day O'Connor
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