Supreme Court Extends More Lenient Penalties in Crack Cocaine Case.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday extended more lenient penalties of a new law for crack and powder cocaine to criminals convicted but not yet sentenced when the law took effect, a ruling that could affect thousands of defendants.
By a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled for two men convicted of crack cocaine crimes, but sentenced after the 2010 measure became law. Congress changed the law due to concerns that the longer prison terms were racially biased and unfair.
The Fair Sentencing Act, signed by President Barack Obama on August 3, 2010, sharply reduced the difference between sentences for crimes committed by crack cocaine users, who tend to be black, and powder cocaine users, who tend to be white. . .
Writing the court's majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said Congress intended the law's more lenient penalties to apply to offenders who committed their crimes before August 3, 2010, but were sentenced after that date.
The U.S. Justice Department initially took the position that the new sentences only applied to crimes committed after Aug 3, 2010.
But after Democratic lawmakers in Congress complained, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a memo issued on July 15, 2011, said the law should apply to all sentences handed down after August 3, 2010, regardless of when the crime had been committed.