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Strong disapproval of mandatory minimums -- from the federal bench

We noted the stark reversal of a recently implemented -- and notably material -- reform of the criminal justice system in a recent blog post, pointing out in our May 17 entry the sudden departure from policy favored by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder via a new edict pronounced by Jeff Sessions, the current AG.

As we indicated in our post, the so-called "Sessions memo" urges federal prosecutors to once again push for and promote mandatory minimum sentencing outcomes in many drug-related cases that Holder sought to deemphasize through alternative sentencing dispositions.

As a CNN article on the sentencing tool indicates, Sessions wants mandatory minimums "to be enforced with renewed vigor."

That passion regarding what is a most potent weapon in the hands of prosecutors resonates strongly with one federal judge who has been dutifully heeding its dictates for years in his sentencing pronouncements.

And not in the way Sessions would like. Mark Bennett flatly hates mandatory minimum rules that handcuff his discretion and, in his view, yield senseless and even stupid judicial outcomes in legions of cases.

Bennett was recently forced to sentence a nonviolent and first-time drug offender -- a grandmother and former addict who sold an amount of methamphetamine about "the size of a packet of sugar" -- to five years in a federal prison. He says that he was appalled by the legal requirement to do so, noting that a state judge would likely have put the woman on probation.

"I think it's a miscarriage of justice," Bennett states regarding the application of mandatory minimums in many federal drug sentences.

In fact, Bennett estimates that about four of every five mandatory sentences he metes out cannot be logically or morally justified.

And until real reform is realized, he says, he will continue to speak out, stating that he is "compelled to talk about it."

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Law Office of Christopher A. Connelly
101 North McDowell Street, Suite 104
Charlotte, NC 28204

Phone: 704-376-9376
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