Cruel and unusual: Harsh sentence fails the test of justice - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:01 PM Thread Starter
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Cruel and unusual: Harsh sentence fails the test of justice

"This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice."
- OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES Jr. (1841-1935)
Supreme Court Justice

When U.S. District Court Judge Paul Cassell sentenced Utah record producer and pot dealer Weldon Angelos to 55 years in prison, he was following the law.

When he joined with a who's who of the American bar to argue that that very sentence was, in Cassell's words, "unjust, cruel and even irrational," he was seeking justice.

The fact that justice and the law do not match is not Cassell's fault. It is the fault of Congress.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case brought by Angelos that his sentence, though mandated by law, is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.

If an effective life sentence for such a common crime, invoked merely because Angelos was found to be carrying a gun when he was caught selling marijuana to undercover police officers, is not cruel and unusual, it's hard to imagine what would be.

As the brief filed by 145 one-time prosecutors, including four former U.S. attorneys general, pointed out, Angelos' sentence is double what would be handed down to someone who was convicted of hijacking an airliner or being the kingpin behind a death-dealing drug cartel.

Angelos was operating in a world where everyone carries weapons because, as the song goes, you always carry cash. That the law that set the sentence or the prosecutors who invoked it should be offended at the presence of a weapon in that environment is childish.

Cassell could have refused to impose the sentence and dared prosecutors to get him overturned on appeal. The fact that he declined to do so shows Cassell, who would never be mistaken for a bleeding-heart liberal in any circumstance, cannot be dismissed as an "activist judge."

Because neither the U.S. Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court would rescue Cassell's conscience from his sense of duty, it is now up to Congress to change the law, and up to President Bush to commute the sentence.

Prospects for such action are slim, given that few politicians advance their careers by putting justice ahead of retribution.

But mandatory minimum sentences are deservedly losing popularity all along the political spectrum. The Angelos case is evidence that they fail the definition of justice, and should end.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #2 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:14 PM
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Our criminal justice system is beyond just broke; it's become a criminal enterprise unto itself.
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post #3 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:17 PM
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how do you really define justice?



in political asylum
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post #4 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:21 PM
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He won’t be dealing drugs and carrying a weapon on the streets no more, good deal.
post #5 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:42 PM
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post #6 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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Regardless, he wasn't forcing anyone to smoke marijuana at gunpoint. He was simply providing a service, in which no one was harmed. Why are there crimes that do or cause no harm? And why is anyone in jail for the commitment of a victimless crime? You could shoot and kill school children and receive a more lenient sentence then this fellow received.

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post #7 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by GermanStar
Regardless, he wasn't forcing anyone to smoke marijuana at gunpoint. He was simply providing a service, in which no one was harmed. Why are there crimes that do or cause no harm? And why is anyone in jail for the commitment of a victimless crime? You could shoot and kill school children and receive a more lenient sentence then this fellow received.
Yup. Mandatory drug sentencing laws are complete crap and have clogged our prisons with a bunch of tree-hugging hippies--and we have to pay to house them. Disgusting.
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post #8 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 02:27 PM
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It's obvious our criminal system is broken. Murderers get out in 5-7 years to make room for the druggies.

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post #9 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 02:50 PM
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The folly of making a drug illegal that can be grown in your backyard.

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post #10 of 102 (permalink) Old 12-08-2006, 03:10 PM
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