Monday, March 31, 2008
Man Acquitted of Possessing Crack Cocaine -- Gets 15 Years
Fortunately, this sort of thing could not happen in a country where juries provide the ultimate check on the power of the state to punish. The case just described, for instance, derives from some remote, tyrannous locale called "Wisconsin". The defendant was found guilty of possessing powdered cocaine -- a conviction that might have netted him three years in prison. He simultaneously was acquitted of a charge of possessing crack cocaine. The farsighted magistrate, the Solon of the Seventh Circuit, Judge John Shabazz, nevertheless sentenced the possessor of the unapproved substance(s) to 18 years in prison, relying on precedent that allows judges to alter sentences based on charges for which defendants are acquitted. The Supremes let the injustice stand. (Of course, the injustice would be little eased had the defendant been convicted of the crack charge. Our whole vilification/prohibition of cocaine is so unnecessary, and so accidental. (Naturally I am not claiming that cocaine is a safe drug -- it obviously is not.) Remember when popes used to say good things about coke?)
Thanks to a Friend of Vice Squad for the pointer.