March 29, 2013

"'I felt bound by those mandatory guidelines and I hated them,' Judge Lagueux said from the bench..."

"... as [Denise] Dallaire sobbed quietly and the room froze with amazement. 'I’m sorry I sent you away for 15 years.' He urged her to get home quickly to her ill mother but not to run down the court steps as people do in the movies. 'Those steps are dangerous,' he told her."
... Like many petty criminals snared by sentencing rules aimed at drug kingpins, Ms. Dallaire had virtually no hope of an early release, even after the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision and subsequent Congressional action reducing prison terms in crack cocaine cases. She got there through an exquisitely rare constellation — her exemplary prison record, Judge Lagueux’s nagging conscience and the interest of another judge who persuaded a top lawyer to volunteer his time to work for her release. Without those, Ms. Dallaire would still be working three jobs at the Danbury federal prison.

“There are a lot of people like Denise doing bone-crushing time under the old sentencing regime, and we need to try to find ways to help them,” said Judge John Gleeson....

45 comments:

Paul Zrimsek said...

I look forward to finding out what her fourth conviction will be for.

Steve said...

My first thought was, "I'll bet she's white."

Yep.

MadisonMan said...

@Paul, it could be a long wait. I know the story is slanted, but I read of someone who actually has reformed. Her trick will be staying away from her old crowd -- but I'll assume they are mostly dead.

ricpic said...

Are we all supposed to cry on cue now? What about all the genuinely bad guys who were put away for mandatory long stretches by the mandatory sentencing law? That was a good thing. Well, unless you're Robert Cook or Montana Urban Schmendrick or garbage.

Virgil Hilts said...

For years I have wondered why Clinton, Bush or Obama did not do a massive end-of-year pardon/commutation of people like her who were over-sentenced because of the old rules. What a great use that would have been of the Presidential pardon power, as opposed to using it for people like Marc Rich, the FALN terrorists, etc. Although I voted against Obama I actually thought he might do something like that. How naive I was. Neither he nor Eric Holder would do anything like that in a million years. What's in it for them any way.

Matthew Sablan said...

"For years I have wondered why Clinton, Bush or Obama did not do a massive end-of-year pardon/commutation of people like her who were over-sentenced because of the old rules."

-- Because some of the people who would be pardoned are not nice people and it would be... politically bad for them to accidentally free someone who goes on to do bad things.

Robert Cook said...

Mandatory sentencing laws are an abomination. The punishment should fit the crime, as the saying goes, and judges should have the means to fulfill the role enshrined in their title, to judge, to fit the punishment not just to the crime but to the character of the accused and the circumstances surrounding his or her offense.

X said...

“This is one case where the guidelines work an injustice, and I’d like to do something about it but I can’t,” he said then from the bench.

just say no.

Virgil Hilts said...

In response to Matthew Sablan .. of course you are right. But Obama has granted pardons at a signficantly more infrequent rate than Bush or Clinton. Would anyone have predicted that in 2008? How is that consistent with what Obama purports to be. It is not. It is consistent with someone who cares more about power than justice.

MadisonMan said...

What about all the genuinely bad guys who were put away for mandatory long stretches by the mandatory sentencing law? That was a good thing.

Locking up everyone, violent and non-violent alike, is not the right solution to getting the violent off the streets.

bagoh20 said...

We know why there is mandatory sentencing. Obviously bad people were being let loose to hurt people again. That's nobody'd fault but the judges who did it, so it makes perfect sense to take away that power. They didn't handle their responsibility, and forced another system to protect people. That new system is less than ideal, but the blame lies with the judges who forced it's creation.

This happens all the time in society, and there should be a word for it. When a few people act so badly that a system is built that satisfies nobody, but is still necessary.

Examples abound. A few assholes make us all of us need spam blockers, and virus protection, require us to lock our cars, our houses, and virtually everything. You can't let your kids walk to school, and on and on, because of a very small number of people that can't be trusted. A few of them are judges. Don't blame the locks for existing.

So is there a word for that thing - a huge hassle for many caused by a very few?

edutcher said...

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

The fact she is white, middle-class, and suburban is all that matters to the Gray Lady

Calypso Facto said...

So is there a word for that thing - a huge hassle for many caused by a very few?

Progessivism?

Calypso Facto said...

The fact she is white, middle-class, and suburban is all that matters to the Gray Lady

If the NYT had a daughter, she'd look like Ms. Dallaire (maybe with a extra dash of lesbian)

DADvocate said...

All the people in prison is the sign of an oppressive society. 90% of prisoners are male, but, once again, all the sympathy and attention goes to a female.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I read of someone who actually has reformed

A clash of Bayesian priors here, obviously, but I still find "someone who was campaigning assiduously for release" a lot more likely. Gleeson sounds like exactly the sort of judge who forced us to resort to mandatory sentencing rules in the first place.

Susan Stewart Rich said...

I was so fasinated by this story I went to PACER to read the court documents but could not find Ms. Dallaire's case. I want to know what the procedural flaw was the judge noticed in his sentencing. Wow--this kind of thing NEVER happens.

Henry said...

Robert Cook is exactly right on this one.

Fernandinande said...

"I’m sorry I sent you away for 15 years."

Barbarian is as barbarian does.

james conrad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I have known far more people who have gotten away with crimes than those who have been unjustly imprisoned.

Smilin' Jack said...

'I felt bound by those mandatory guidelines and I hated them,' Judge Lagueux said...

Dallaire sold a few ounces of cocaine, though she knew it was wrong, because she was paid to do it.

Lagueux imprisoned a woman for 15 years, though he knew it was wrong, because he was paid to do it.

Who deserves the longer sentence?

Oso Negro said...

Well, she is a model fucking citizen. Priors include assault (throwing a glass in a bar room brawl) and a previous possession of a similar amount of crack cocaine (seven years before the one that got her sent to the big house). What a shame that such a nice white girl got snared in laws intended to show that we are serious about the problems of crack cocaine.

virgil xenophon said...

And let us not forget that the uber strict sentences for crack cocaine (viz powdered coke) came at the behest/pleadings of desperate inner-city black community leaders of all stripes who testified before Congress about the mayhem gang/drug-related shootings were causing the black community..

SteveR said...

I have somewhat mixed feelings about mandatory sentencing guidelines. They are clearly cases where it has been quite harsh by reasonable standards but there are also many cases where judges have given light sentences to persons convicted of really horrible crimes, such as involving children. So I tend to fall into the group who basically says "don't do the crime, if you can't do the crime".

AllenS said...

For those who think that welfare ruined the black community, crack cocaine was the final nail in the coffin.

Calypso Facto said...

I tend towards the Libertarian view of drug criminalization, but I do think it's fair to ask how many violent or property crimes Ms. Dallaire's drug sales career may have contributed to.

Jim said...

10:07 you are so right. I get so tired of hearing liberals, Mark Thompson and Al Sharpton, complain about the crack cocaine sentencing disparity when it was demanded by inner city black leaders to protect the defenseless Grandmas and children from the predators.

Makes me want to throw up my hands, stay in the suburbs and say to my urban brethren, "you handle it."

Matthew Sablan said...

"I have known far more people who have gotten away with crimes than those who have been unjustly imprisoned."

-- That's... how it is supposed to work.

ndspinelli said...

The guidelines for crack were draconian thanks to a Democrat[Tip O'Neill]. I think this was a good decision. However, the reporter tips his hand when he says a "few ounces of cocaine" as if it were a small amount. A few ounces is not a small amount unless you're Pablo Escobar.

bagoh20 said...

" "few ounces of cocaine"

28 grams per ounce

Powdered cocaine: $100/gram on the street = many thousands of dollars.

By the ounce: Powder @ $1000/oz. | Crack @ 800/oz. It was a valuable handful.

Robert Cook said...

"I have known far more people who have gotten away with crimes than those who have been unjustly imprisoned."

Assuming your limited first hand knowledge were a sufficient sample to indicate an accurate view of the reality nationally, would you rather it be the other way around?

Our justice system should protect the citizenry against the state, not facilitate the state's power to use the law as weapon against us.

Robert Cook said...

"Dallaire sold a few ounces of cocaine, though she knew it was wrong, because she was paid to do it.

"Lagueux imprisoned a woman for 15 years, though he knew it was wrong, because he was paid to do it."

"Who deserves the longer sentence?"


This is a non-sequitur. Judges may not ignore or deviate from the sentencing requirements where mandatory sentencing laws are in place. If the law says a 10 year old boy must go to prison for life because he pointed his finger at another child and said "bang!", the judge must apply that sentence. This is the point of mandatory sentencing laws: they remove entirely the judge's sentencing prerogatives. They turn the judges into mere rubber stamps for the state.

bagoh20 said...

"the judge must apply that sentence."

I thought it was a great sequitur. The judge didn't have to do it. He could just refused to be a judge. If they all did, it would collapse. The woman could have refused to do what she did too. They both would have survived, and it could be argued both would be better off for it. There is just a cost to standing on principle, and neither wanted to pay it.

What the judge did is quantifiably worse than what she did. Legal, but that's a poor standard for morality.

Cedarford said...

edutcher said...
Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.
=================
A dumb right wing nursery chant.
The amount of time one serves is wildly disparate between offenders, mainly related to plea deals and how vindictive or lienent the prosecutor is on the original charges and where they stand in a particular point in the year on their "quotas".
And most people never face the "Maximum" dumb laws can impose. Instead of a fine of 300 dollars for speeding in excess of 80+ MPH, you can get 3 years in jail.

Love to see edutchers face after somehow royally pissing off prosecutor and judge, he is hauled off to jail for 3 years instead of getting away like 99.99% of offenders and prisoner chant at him "don't do the crime if you can't do the time!".

Cedarford said...

I also agree with Robert Cook on his logic that justice done must be tempered by judges evaluating the circumstances.
But that mandatory minimums arose when judges abused their position in the 70s and early 80s and gave out wrist slaps to violent thugs, rapists, muggers, Wall Street con artists, drug dealers.
Judges did it for many reasons - some political, some based on intoxication with power playing God and knowing the person better than their victiims, cops, prosecutors, and lawmakers.

Because of the problem of rogue judges abusing their discretion became perceived as common, and repeat offenders out on the streets doing worse crimes...legislators acting for The People who elected them concerned about "turn 'em loose" judges......took away much of the discretion judges abused.

(Another part of the problem is how the US justice system sets up judges as sovereign kings, answerable professionally to no one for bad decisions, letting evil people walk..and lack of judges denouncing judges that abused the laws.)

Robert Cook said...

Coincidentally, here's a pertinent column on the topic published today on Counterpunch.

To those who blame (or excuse the creation of) mandatory sentencing laws on the supposed "plague" of "crazy judges letting killers and rapists walk free!" I will suggest that, in fact, the mandatory sentencing laws are simply the cynical result of political candidates running on the perennial "get tough on crime" issue. In other words, candidates with nothing else to offer as reason to vote for them pander to the fears of the lowest-common denominator. Ultimately, we have ourselves to blame.

hombre said...

Mandatory sentences worked quite nicely in our state, but the feds can screw up anything. Amateurs!

hombre said...

Cook wrote: To those who blame (or excuse the creation of) mandatory sentencing laws on the supposed "plague" of "crazy judges letting killers and rapists walk free!" I will suggest that, in fact, the mandatory sentencing laws are simply the cynical result of political candidates running on the perennial "get tough on crime" issue.

As usual, Cook, you are a conduit for left-wing pap. In fact, police and prosecutors were the prime movers for mandatory sentences in most states and were able to document easily instances when judges released dangerous offenders back into the communities. The chair of the study committee recommending mandatories in our state was an appellate judge.

On the federal side the sentences were recommended by a study commission. When it was willing to do so, the DOJ released impressive statistics documenting the correlation between imprisonment and reductions in crime.

ndspinelli said...

Cedarford, edutcher would be butt fucked to death in prison.

hawkeyedjb said...

"Locking up everyone, violent and non-violent alike, is not the right solution to getting the violent off the streets."

Yep. Just like locking up the innocent doesn't get the guilty off the streets. But nothing can convince me that our drug laws have done anything but contribute to the ruin of our cities and our society. The amount of money and effort we spend to incarcerate piss-ant drug dealers is insane. And we only incarcerate them because of laws that shouldn't exist in the first place. Marijuana? What the hell are we doing, putting people in prison for marijuana offenses? It's insane. You'd think we might have learned something from the 20s and 30s. Nope.

Maybe we should start imprisoning people for drinking gin, or whatever the pleasure of choice is for congresspeople. Throw a couple hundred thousand drinkers in jail and see if that leads to a rethinking of the underlying premise of the drug laws.

gregq said...

If she didn't want to do the time, she shouldn't have done the crime.

If far too many judges had not abused their position to "feel sorry" for defendants, rather than their victims, we wouldn't have the mandatory sentencing laws.

IOW, "whah! Piss off."

gregq said...

Sorry, there's no such thing as a "non violent drug crime." The violence of the drug wars comes from people making it so valuable to buy and sell drugs. Without the people like here, none of the violence would happen.

hawkeyedjb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hawkeyedjb said...

"The violence of the drug wars comes from people making it so valuable to buy and sell drugs."

That would be the people who pass the laws making drugs illegal.

There will always be drug users. It's the drug laws that introduce violence into the picture.