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Better data collection and reporting about drug arrests would help inform policy as attitudes toward the drug war shift, particularly with respect to marijuana. Kennedy, the U. Here are the basic details:. The accelerated process is thanks to House Bill , a bi-partisan bill which was passed this summer and made retroactive a number of criminal justice reforms that reclassified some drug and property crimes. The new law goes into effect Nov.

The Nov. Rather than the typical two-step process that often takes several months, the hearing is expected to take less than an hour. Inmates who pass through the expedited process are expected to be released from prison in November. Kevin Stitt, in a statement, offered praise for the entities preparing for the large number of commutations. The board is wisely implementing a thorough process to ensure their actions on Nov.

The Department of Corrections has also been a committed partner in putting people first in this process by hosting transition fairs inside state prisons to connect non-violent offenders with the resources they need to succeed when they re-enter society.

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The new law mandates that, rather than strict retroactivity, the Pardon and Parole Board must decide which inmates affected by HB get an accelerated commutation and which inmates must go through the standard commutation process, Bickley said. There are two dockets on Nov. Everyone on those two dockets is technically eligible for accelerated commutation, though the list will be whittled down extensively, Bickley said. First, there are a number of inmates on the two lists who will not be recommended for accelerated commutation due to misconduct while in prison.

Bickley said some inmates on the lists were involved in the events that led to the recent lockdowns at a number of state prisons, and those inmates would not receive recommendations.

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Additionally, district attorneys across the state can file challenges to specific commutations that may affect whether an inmate gets a recommendation, Bickley said, and as of Wednesday the Pardon and Parole Board had heard from only three of the more than 20 district attorneys across Oklahoma.

Regular readers may already be tired of many prior posts in which I have made much of a key provision of the FIRST STEP Act that now allows federal courts to directly reduce sentences under the so-called compassionate release statutory provisions of 18 U. But I continue to see value in highlighting developing jurisprudence under this provision largely because I think, if applied appropriately and robustly, this provision could and should enable many hundreds and perhaps many thousands of federal prisoners to have excessive prison sentences reduced.

Brown , No. Iowa Oct. The ruling US v. Soears , No. Despite objections from prosecutors, U. Judge Michael H. Simon found Adolph Spears Sr. Spears, but also to the family who cares so deeply for him.

Registration Open: YLD "Striking Injustice" for Philadelphia Bar Foundation Oct. 6

Spears has multiple chronic serious medical ailments, a limited life expectancy and depends on a wheelchair to get around, according to one of his medical experts. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in June He also suffers from poorly controlled diabetes, cataracts, pain from spinal surgery, chronic kidney disease, limited mobility and difficulty swallowing. Spears submitted his release request to the prisons bureau on Sept. On Sept. The judge said he waited until Tuesday, more than 30 days after Spears made his request to the prisons bureau, to consider the motion.

The U. Prosecutors had argued that Spears remains a danger, largely because he was convicted of a significant drug conspiracy and he possessed guns during his drug trafficking activities. He was convicted of distributing crack cocaine when sentences for such drug crimes were much higher and judges had less discretion, Simon wrote.

Since then, Congress has made changes to avoid sentencing disparities in such drug cases. I now see that the Chicago Tribune has this new lengthy article , headlined "Convicted in a controversial stash house sting operation, Leslie Mayfield is struggling to rebuild his life after prison. I recommend the new Tribune article in full, and here are excerpts:. Over the years, through his trial for conspiring to rob a drug stash house, his sentencing to a decades-long prison term and his long-shot fight to overturn his conviction on entrapment grounds, Mayfield had always been escorted into court by deputy U.

But recently, he took a seat in U. Then the judge made the transformation official, agreeing that Mayfield, 51, no longer needed court supervision. The ruling marked a quiet milestone in the widely criticized sting operations in which the U. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives used informants to lure unsuspecting targets into a scheme to rob drug stash houses — an undercover ruse concocted by the government.

For years, the stings were considered a smashing success, touted as a law enforcement tool to remove dangerous criminals from the streets. But the practice came under fire in when attorneys for the University of Chicago Law School mounted a legal challenge on behalf of nearly four dozen Chicago-area defendants alleging the stings disproportionately targeted African Americans and Hispanics. Both the ATF and the U.

While the legal effort to prove racial discrimination fell short, the tactics drew sharp rebukes from many judges. Prosecutors began quietly dismissing the more serious charges, and over the next year or so, most of the defendants — including Mayfield — were sentenced to time served. Like so many ex-cons, Mayfield is learning how hard it can be to rebuild his life after prison.

He also continues to fight guilt over the plight of his brother and cousin — both of whom he recruited into the scheme and are still serving decadeslong prison sentences The outlines of each stash house sting followed the same basic pattern: ATF informants identified people they believed would commit a drug-related robbery. If the target met certain criteria — including a violent criminal background — agents approved the sting.

The elaborate operations included a fake stash house location, fictitious amounts of money and drugs, and other made-up details of a robbery plot. An undercover agent posing as a disgruntled drug dealer followed a script aimed at convincing the target to agree on secret recordings to take part in the robbery, pledge to bring guns — and use them if necessary. Since agents claimed that massive quantities of drugs were involved, the prosecutions often carried eye-popping sentences, sometimes even life behind bars.

Nearly all the targets, though, turned out to be African American or Hispanic — many of whom had minimal criminal histories Mayfield was convicted at trial in and handed a year sentence. His brother, with only a nonviolent drug conviction in his past, and his cousin both were given year prison terms. In a landmark hearing in December , nine federal judges overseeing the cases heard testimony from dueling experts on policing who came to dramatically different conclusions. For instance, while out on bond, two men facing stash house-related indictments were charged in separate shootings, including the wounding of a Chicago police officer.

But many judges overseeing the cases had clear concerns that the ends did not justify the means. While Castillo stopped short of dismissing the case before him, his ruling had a ripple effect. At the urging of Castillo and other judges, the U.

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The results were startling. While many of the 43 defendants faced mandatory sentences of 15 to 35 years in prison if convicted, 32 instead were released with sentences of time served after pleading guilty to lesser charges. Most of the others received prison terms that were significantly below federal sentencing guidelines.

As reported in this local article , the top court in Massachusetts has vacated "the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a man who provided drugs in a fatal overdose. Jesse Carrillo was convicted two years ago for the fatal heroin overdose of fellow UMass Amherst student Eric Sinacori, who was 20 when he died.

This Is How Prosecutors (Still) Keep Black People Off Juries – Mother Jones

On Thursday, the state's Supreme Judicial Court vacated Carrillo's manslaughter conviction, arguing that the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence that Carrillo knew the heroin would cause a fatal overdose. Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said in a statement that it's "disheartening that the Supreme Judicial Court does not believe heroin use carries a high probability of substantial harm or death. But Northeastern University law professor Leo Beletsky says if the case were upheld, it would have set a dangerous precedent.

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The full unanimous ruling of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is available at this link , and it my be of particular interest to law profs and 1Ls now getting to the homicide unit in their CrimLaw classes and to many others. Here are excerpts from the opinion's introduction:. To find a defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter caused by wanton or reckless conduct, our case law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant engaged in conduct that creates "a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another. Welansky , Mass. Selling or giving heroin to another person may be wanton or reckless conduct where, under the circumstances, there is a high degree of likelihood that the person will suffer substantial harm, such as an overdose or death, from the use of those drugs. And in many cases the circumstances surrounding the distribution of heroin will permit a rational finder of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that the transfer of heroin created a high degree of likelihood of substantial harm, such as an overdose or death.

But not every case will present circumstances that make such conduct "wanton or reckless. We conclude that the mere possibility that the transfer of heroin will result in an overdose does not suffice to meet the standard of wanton or reckless conduct under our law. The Commonwealth must introduce evidence showing that, considering the totality of the particular circumstances, the defendant knew or should have known that his or her conduct created a high degree of likelihood of substantial harm, such as an overdose or death.

Here, no evidence was presented during the Commonwealth's case-in-chief that would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the inherent possibility of substantial harm arising from the use of heroin -- which is present in any distribution of heroin -- had been increased by specific circumstances to create a high degree of likelihood of substantial harm. For instance, the Commonwealth did not present evidence that the defendant knew or should have known that the heroin was unusually potent or laced with fentanyl; evidence that Sinacori was particularly vulnerable to an overdose because of his age, use of other drugs, or prior overdoses; or evidence that the defendant knew or should have known that Sinacori had overdosed but failed to seek help.

In the absence of any such evidence, we conclude that the Commonwealth did not meet its burden of producing sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendant's conduct in this case created a high degree of likelihood that Sinacori would suffer substantial harm, such as an overdose or death, from his use of the heroin. The defendant's conviction of involuntary manslaughter must therefore be vacated, and a required finding of not guilty entered.

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As many of my former students likely recall, the Welansky case is still one of my favorite cases to teach during 1L Criminal Law.