Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a giant leap backwards in time by issuing a memo instructing Federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in drug related crimes, reversing the policies of his predecessor, Eric Holder.
Holder took a more progressive and humane approach, especially concerning non-violent and low-level offenders. It was also a more pragmatic and fiscally responsible approach aimed at correcting over 40 years of damage done by the harsh policies of the past and the failed War on Drugs.
If Mr. Sessions wants to address the spike in opiate use, he needs to look at the alarming statistics showing the rise in heroin addiction is increasingly the result of using legally obtained prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and other synthetic pharmaceutical products designed to mimic the effects of morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.
Maybe it’s time the Justice Department investigates Big Pharma.
Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. — Article III, Section II, United States Constitution
Most people get their knowledge of the judicial system from TV shows like “Law and Order”, which bear little resemblance to real life. The ‘justice’ part is much easier to see when it’s laid out for you in a snazzy hour long drama. It’s a much more involved process for a jury in real life to reach a verdict. And it’s expensive. A jury trial can set the taxpayers back quite a bit, and the time involved can really back up an already overloaded justice system.
The ability of prosecutors to hold incredibly harsh sentences over the heads of the accused goes a long way to alleviating the expense of jury trials. It is a threat, not unlike holding a gun to someone’s head: Plead or else.
The above cited Section of the Constitution is a sham. An estimated ninety-seven percent of people in Federal prisons never had a trial by a jury of their peers.
This has increasingly reduced the role of a Criminal Defense Attorney from defender seeking justice and arguing his client’s case before a jury, to negotiator in a hostage crisis, trying to get the best deal possible for their client. We are literally forced to make our case to the Prosecution without ever going before a Judge and Jury. The deck is already stacked in favor of the Prosecution, and what Sessions is doing will simply make it worse and more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences– rules that limit a Judge’s discretion.
And therein lies another slap in the face for justice: Intentionally limiting the role of Judges in the judicial process.
Having had the privilege of appearing before many Judges over the years, I can tell you they are completely competent to render a just decision without handcuffing them to arbitrary rules, doled out and overseen by a small group of people in Washington, DC., who are completely removed from, and literally oblivious to, the facts and circumstances of any individual case.
Mandatory Minimums essentially say the Federal Government has no faith in the ability of Judges to render just decisions. But that’s what Mr. Sessions wants.
Everyone in the Justice System should be concerned that Mr. Sessions is taking us backwards by instituting policies and guidelines that have proven to be a failure, going back to Prohibition.
Add the reality of a corporate controlled, for-profit prison system, and we have a recipe for disaster.