By Christopher Zoukis

On December 3, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, sitting en banc, rejected a challenge to the federal crack cocaine sentencing regimen that had been held unconstitutional in May by a three-judge panel of the Court.  By a 10-7 margin, the full court ruled that the crack cocaine sentences handed down to two black defendants, withstood review for racial disparities under the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution.  The Court also ruled that Sentencing Guidelines relief from mandatory minimum sentences provided by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372, would not be applied retroactively under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).  United States v. Blewett, Case No. 12-5226, 5582 (6th Cir., 12/3/12)(en banc).

The en banc court reversed a controversial decision by a three-judge panel of the same court that equated the federal crack cocaine sentencing regimen with “slavery and Jim Crow laws,” and vacated the sentences of two black defendants as violation of the equal protection clause. See United States v. Blewett, 719 F.3d 482, 493 (6th Cir. 2013), vacated (July 11, 2013).

The en banc court ruled that the Blewett defendants’ claim of an equal protection clause violation, due to the crack sentencing laws having a disparate effect on blacks, failed because prior decisions of that court had already addressed the issue, see, e.g., United States v. Williams, 962 F.2d 1218, 1227 (6th Cir. 1992), and that an Eighth Amendment concern over the length of their sentence were negated by Supreme Court decisional law that had upheld far more onerous punishments for drug dealing than the 10-year sentences imposed on Cornelius Blewett and his cousin, Jarreous Blewett. See Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 965 (1991)(upholding life-without-parole sentence for 672 grams of cocaine).

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By Christopher Zoukis

Few things in this world anger me more than grown men who attack or torture small animals and think it’s acceptable.  Sadly, I’m often reminded of how much I hate this occurrence due to the apparently large population of animal abusers who reside at FCI Petersburg, the medium security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where I am incarcerated.  Tonight was no exception.

This evening I spent a good two hours playing Ultimate Frisbee on the recreation yard.  At 8 pm, when we finished playing for the night, I was on my way to the gate and had to pass the basketball courts.  I witnessed a grown man, who had just finished playing basketball with his friends, throwing rocks at the sleeping pigeons up in the rafters of the overhanging roof.  Yes, you heard that right, a grown man, with his friends cheering him on, attacking small animals with rocks.  I was furious.

I was so angry I walked right out onto the basketball court and confronted the man.  Obviously not a very good idea, but I couldn’t allow such reprehensible behavior to continue and I didn’t see any of my friends present to back me up.  So, I, the one white guy confronted a group of perhaps eight basketball players.  All of them looked at me as if I was the crazy one since I thought torturing small animals was outside of the range of acceptable conduct.  Perhaps they thought me as crazy for confronting them alone.  Words were spoken and we went our separate ways, but when I left my blood was boiling.

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