Eric Holder Says Mandatory Minimums Are Unnecessary As Well As Unjust



In a speech to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers today, Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated his criticism of mandatory minimum sentences, calling them "outdated and overly stringent." He also questioned the argument that mandatory minimums are necessary to encourage "cooperation":

Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory minimum sentence.  As veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys surely recall—and as our U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, John Vaudreuil, has often reminded his colleagues—sentencing guidelines essentially systematized the kinds of negotiations that routinely took place in cases where defendants cooperated with the government in exchange for reduced sentences. With or without the threat of a mandatory minimum, it remains in the interest of these defendants to cooperate. It remains in the mutual interest of defense attorneys and prosecutors to engage in these discussions. And any suggestion that defendant cooperation is somehow dependent on mandatory minimums is plainly inconsistent with the facts and with history.

While Holder is obviously right that plea deals do not require mandatory minimums, there is evidence that increasingly draconian penalties have made defendants more inclined to forgo trials, to the point that 97 percent of federal defendants plead guilty. But if avoiding the inconvenience and expense of trials were the overriding goal, there would be no limit to the punishment that could be inflicted on reclacitrant defendants who insist on exercising their Sixth Amendment rights. If all crimes carried a mandatory death penalty, for instance, the "cooperation" rate probably would be even higher. But at some point the interests of justice have to outweigh the interests of prosecutors. We surely have passed that point when the penalty for going to trial can be spending the rest of your life in prison

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  1. It’s nice to see Holder coming out against mandatory minimums, but I just cannot help but wonder which crony this helps. Because Holder has never done anything that didn’t benefit himself, his masters, or his and their cronies before, and I can’t believe he’s starting now.

    1. Someone on TEAM BLUE has to hold the string on the trial balloon. Why not the guy who is going to be trying to stay out of the custody of the department he ran unless the Prez issues a pardon on the way out.

      1. The left trying to steal back the civil liberties high ground from Rand prior to the next elections?

        1. The left has always been about civil liberties, and they are not threatened by that whiny moron.

          1. Keep telling yourself that.

          2. Thought this was sarcasm until I saw the author.

          3. Obama’s NSA and IRS say hi, douchenozzle.

          4. HAHAHAHAHAHA!

            Good one.

            BTW, have I pointed out what a vile immoral pig you are today?

            1. I hope he wins the nomination, truly, and not just because he’ll be painfully easy to beat. He alone among the candidates of the Fascist Stupids will generate a conversation about civil liberties, the drug war, and other stuff we both care about. So good luck with that.

              1. Tony|8.1.14 @ 4:08PM|#
                …”other stuff we both care about.”

                Yeah, shitpile, you care so much about it you vote for the guy who throws black and brown kids in the slammer.
                Fucking liar….

        2. The left trying to steal back the civil liberties high ground from Rand prior to the next elections?

          This seems to be exactly their strategy. I don’t see it working. If Rand gets the nomination he’ll be able to point a finger at the other side and say honestly that while they were pretending to be friends of civil rights, they were also putting people in prison for decades for victim-less crimes while he worked diligently and consistently to right actual wrongs.

    2. There’s a little bit of “We’re the pot party even though we still love the WoD” going on. Crist in Florida is running quite a bit on pot.

      1. Crist doesn’t believe in anything. I can’t fathom there’s anyone stupid enough to take anything he says seriously.

    3. Yeah, credit where due, but I surprised and cautious of his motives. I’d have expected his position to be 180 out.

      1. Forget his words and motives, watch his actions or lack thereof.

    4. Broken clocks, etc.

    5. It’s nice to see Holder coming out against mandatory minimums, but I just cannot help but wonder which crony this helps.

      Himself. He knows that in 2 years he will be sharing a cell with Blogo. He hope to keep the duration to a minimum.

  2. …And nothing else happened (unfortunately).

  3. “I want to be very clear: we will never stop being vigilant in our pursuit of justice and our determination to ensure that those who break the law are held rigorously to account.”

    I want to be very clear: I believe Holder when he says he will never stop “being vigilant”.

  4. I find it interesting that, as Holder contemplates the end of his stay as AG and consigiliere for Obama, that he is suddenly concerned with harsh sentencing.

    Purely a coincidence, I’m sure.

  5. Does his distaste of MMS also apply to hate crimes?

  6. So then Holder thinks that mandatory minimums are necessary and just?

  7. It helps to know the history of mandatory minimums. It’s been decades since I had to read about this stuff, but here goes. Back in the ’70s, there was a lot of outrage over wildly disparate sentences for nearly-identical crimes, in part because laws were often written with a lot of flex in them (e.g. 1-10 years for robbery). The proposed reform was determinate sentencing, which makes a certain amount of sense. Then the politicians and anti-drug crusaders decided to be tough on crime, and crank the minimums up to often-absurd heights.

    I don’t see anything wrong with determinate sentences per se, but they should be reasonable.

  8. If Eric Holder is against something, then I’m for it.

  9. I thought minimums were established to prevent wacko judges from handing out extra lean sentences – like time served for a convicted murderer.

  10. Something about a broken clock…..

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