IN 2004, the New York State Legislature finally enacted changes to
the draconian Rockefeller drug laws that imposed long mandatory
sentences on major and minor drug dealers. The goal of these changes
(later supplemented by further minor reform last year) was to prevent
first-time nonviolent offenders -- especially low-level dealers and
addicts selling to support their drug habits -- from serving
unreasonably lengthy jail sentences.
The new law, the Drug Law Reform Act, reduced penalties, eliminated
life sentences and afforded more plea-bargaining options, among other things.
In "Setting Kingpins Free" (Op-Ed, July 16), the retired judge Leslie
Crocker Snyder criticizes the Legislature's efforts to reform the
Rockefeller drug laws, saying, "No one envisioned that the sentences
of drug kingpins would be reduced."
No meaningful definition of "drug kingpin" exists. The Legislature
understood this, and refused to use such epithets to distinguish who
should benefit from the law, and who should not.
Some judges, much to Ms. Snyder's dismay, have exercised the power to
sentence in the way thought best, based on individual circumstances.
It appears that Ms. Snyder would prefer that judges seek her counsel
on cases that appeared before her, before resentencing them.
By publishing her stance on the Legislature's reforms to the
draconian Rockefeller drug laws, she manages to remain in the public
eye and jumpstart her next run for Manhattan district attorney.
Pres., New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers