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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Opinion

Supreme Court ruling a bittersweet victory


On Wednesday, Baylor University lawyers won their U.S. Supreme Court case Spears v. United States, which ‘received a 6-3 majority ruling in their favor for a case dealing with guidelines for sentencing cases involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine,’ The Lariat’s Ashleigh Smitz reported.

While court judgments have long been harsher on criminals sentenced for possession, distribution or manufacture of crack cocaine than those relating to powder cocaine, the results of the 2005 case of United States v. Booker – which involved making guidelines for rulings advisory and not mandatory – opened the way for Spears v. United States to ultimately overturn the 100-to-1 ratio court rulings were previously bound by, Smitz reported.

The mandatory 100-to-1 ratio, which demands that the sale of 100 grams of powder cocaine be considered equal to the sale of one gram of crack cocaine when determining the defendant’s sentence, was first overturned in 2007’s Kimbrough v. United States.

However, this triumph was made null when three circuit courts ruled that the Kimbrough v. United States did not explicitly state that judges have the authority to provide their own ratio, Waco Tribune-Herald’s Tim Woods reported.
Steven v. United States basically guarantees the rulings of these earlier U.S. Supreme Court cases.

When one considers there is a certain amount of understood prejudice in the discrepancy in cases involving either crack or powder cocaine – that it is not whether one drug is more dangerous than another, but that certain social and ethnic groups are more likely to use one over the other – Spears v. United States seems like a bittersweet victory for Americans.

Let us hope that the dichotomy of judgments is met appropriately. The importance is not that crack cocaine sentences will be lessened, but that they will be treated equally under the law.

Social stigmas will most likely continue to influence judges’ decisions, but at least it is left to them. Arguments aside, the real victory of this case is that Constitutional law is being upheld.


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