Pubdate: Wed, 10 Jun 2015
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2015 The Washington Post Company
Author: Brian A. Dupre


The June 7 front-page article "Against his better judgment," about 
mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases, quoted U.S. District 
Judge Mark Bennett telling a defendant, "My hands are tied on your 
sentence. I'm sorry." The article failed to note that there is an 
actor in the system whose hands aren't tied: the federal prosecutor. 
Federal prosecutors have the discretion to pursue lesser charges in 
these cases but choose not to.

Why would the prosecutor agree only to a plea bargain that carried a 
10-year mandatory minimum for a defendant? How does he or she respond 
to the judge's criticism? Why was such a decision made in light of 
the Justice Department's August 2013 directive to assistant U.S. 
attorneys not to pursue charges bearing mandatory minimums against 
first-time nonviolent offenders?

An examination of this case or sentencing in general should not 
overlook the immense power prosecutors have to alleviate the 
injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing or to perpetuate it.

Brian A. Dupre, Washington
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