Many federal judges are criticizing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, aimed at narrowing the gap between sentences for convictions involving crack and powder cocaine, for being less than fair. Under the presumption that laws do apply retroactively without a clear statement from Congress, the law appears to only reduce mandatory sentences for those defendants who are charged with crack offenses committed after August of last year. Many federal trial judges have given out shorter sentences to those defendants convicted of crimes committed before August anyway, citing the injustice of continuing to dole out punishments deemed too harsh by Congress. But it’s unclear whether this will continue, as the only appeals court to consider the question so far has said that without a clear statement from Congress, the law cannot apply retroactively. It looks like the Supreme Court might have to be the last word on this issue.
From the New York Times article: “In his recent decision, Judge Michael A. Ponsor of Federal District Court in Springfield, Mass., said that could not be right. It is one thing, he wrote, to have to impose an unjust sentence. But it is asking too much of judges, he went on, to require them to continue to sentence defendants under a racially skewed system ‘when the injustice has been identified and formally remedied by Congress itself.'”