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Praised be judges who speak against the drug war

Fairfax criminal lawyer on the damage from the war on drugs

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Praised be the judges who speak out against the drug war. Senior federal trial Judge Mark W. Bennett (N.D. Ia.) publicly admits feeling “greatly conflicted about my role in the ‘war on drugs.'” (See also here.) Fourth Circuit senior Judge Andre Davis  Jon Katz, P.C. | Fairfax drug defense lawyer recently confirmed that “the ill-fated ‘War on Drugs’ has a sometimes overlooked and unmentioned casualty: the Fourth Amendment.”

Retired federal trial judge Nancy Gertner — who clearly knew what she was getting into when she joined the bench — confirms that the drug war “‘is a war that I saw destroy lives…  It eliminated a generation of African American men, covered our racism in ostensibly neutral guidelines and mandatory minimums… and created an intergenerational problem––although I wasn’t on the bench long enough to see this, we know that the sons and daughters of the people we sentenced are in trouble, and are in trouble with the criminal justice system.'”

Last week, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson blasted a court finding of sufficient evidence to find intent to distribute but 18 grams of marijuana (a little more than one-half ounce) and the eighteen-year prison sentence that resulted:

“I find it outrageous that defendant’s conviction of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and sentence of 18 years imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, resulting from the discovery of a mere 18 grams of marijuana, will be allowed to stand. Considering the rapidly relaxing social attitudes toward the use of marijuana, the increasing number of states whose voters have approved the recreational use of marijuana,1 and changing laws (even in Louisiana)2 providing more lenient penalties relative to marijuana possession, the result of this case is even more ridiculous. By odd ‘coincidence,’ defendant was sentenced to 18 years in prison – exactly one year per gram of marijuana – a fact suggesting defendant’s sentence was arbitrary rather than the result of careful consideration of the appropriate sentencing factors. As a practical matter, in light of the inconsequential amount of marijuana found, imprisoning defendant for this extreme length of time at a cost of about $23,000 per year.”

Louisiana v. Howard, ___ So. 3rd ___, 2017 WL 1716213  (La., May 3, 2017).

Thankfully, judges continue speaking out about the excesses and abuses of the drug war.