The Kimbrough ruling on punishing crack cocaine offenses marks a major shift in the debate that has raged for 21 years over the much more severe sentencing required for those whose crimes involved crack cocaine. The Sentencing Commission for years asked Congress to ease the 100-to-1 ratio, and usually failed, but only recently gained some flexibility to vary the Guideline range outside that ratio. The disparity in punishment has often been challenged as racially oriented, because black offenders more often are involved in possessing or distributing crack than powder....
The Court’s ruling, besides shoring up the Sentencing Commission’s criticism of crack punishment, also bolsters federal trial judges who in recent months have been experimenting with easing up on crack cocaine sentences. Whether this was a valid use of their authority, because it might and does result in below-Guidelines sentences, was the issue the Court decided in Kimbrough.
December 10, 2007
SCOTUSblog explains this morning's Supreme Court case that authorized federal judges to lower sentences for crack cocaine crimes: