Jeff Sessions

Here's That Time Jeff Sessions Wanted to Execute Drug Dealers

"I don't think that sounds like something I would normally say," says the guy who definitely said that.

|

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions to Attorney General on Wednesday morning along a party-line vote, clearing the way for a floor vote in the Senate to confirm his appointment. But there's a little bit of unfinished business that should be cleared up.

Back during Sessions' confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee in December, Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy asked Sessions about his previous support, while he was the attorney general of Alabama, for making repeat drug trafficking offenses punishable by the death penalty.

"[Y]ou have some very strong views," Leahy said. "You even mandated the death penalty for anyone convicted of a second drug trafficking offense, including marijuana, even though mandatory death penalties are, of course, unconstitutional."

"Well, I'm not sure under what circumstances I said that," Sessions replied. "But I don't think that sounds like something I would normally say. I will be glad to look at it."

If Sessions wants to look at it, here it is: The proposal was part of a package of crime bills introduced by the Alabama governor and Sessions, then state attorney general, in 1996. The details of the crime package were reported in a '96 issue of Alabama Lawyer, the magazine of the state bar association. This has been reported elsewhere, but I haven't seen a link to the article and the details of the bill. Take a look for yourself on pg. 155.

"In addition to 'tort reform' bills, Governor James and Attorney General Sessions have proposed 31 crime bills, that they propose will 'fix a broken system,'" the magazine wrote.

According to Alabama Lawyer, one of those bills, would have amended Alabama's Drug Trafficking Enterprise Act to change the punishment for a second conviction from mandatory life imprisonment to a sentence of death.

The bill included a host of other punitive proposals such as:

  • Abolishing parole, similar to the federal prison system.
  • Eliminating the state court of criminal appeals from review of death penalty cases, instead sending death penalty appeals directly to the Alabama Supreme Court. This would have had the effect of curtailing the number of appeals death row inmates could file.
  • Expanding the number of persons ineligible for bail from those convicted of capital offenses to those charged with Class A or B felonies.
  • Allowing "warrantless searches for violations as well as felonies and misdemeanors."
  • It would have also strengthened the mandatory penalties for anyone convicted of a drug crime while possessing a firearm, expanded the definition of felony murder, and raised a second conviction of possession of marijuana for personal use from a misdemeanor to a felony crime.

The bill ultimately failed. Sessions' views on drugs and crime have softened in the years since, as have those of many politicians whose careers outlasted the "tough on crime" demagoguery of the '90s, but it never hurts to take a trip down memory lane, especially when one of those politicians is poised to become U.S. attorney general. And especially when that presumptive attorney general is reportedly the "intellectual godfather" behind the current administration's policies.

NEXT: Meet the MSNBC Legal Eagle Who Proposes Destroying the Free Press

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Christ, what an asshole.

    1. Keep it up, you’re doing great.

      1. Thanks, man. I’m tryin’.

    2. Leave Shackford alone.

      1. Sorry again, Shackleford.

      2. This isn’t Shackford; it’s Caramel-0, the new guy. He’s alright.

        1. He’s alright.

          For an asshole.

          1. Cut him some slack, working the Daily Nutpunch beat is hard on everybody.

    3. Those were my exact, literal thoughts too. It’s a consensus.

    4. I always say that if Fist actually did his job, this would be the first comment on each article.

  2. But I don’t think that sounds like something I would normally say.

    “I must have been drunk as fuck.”

    1. “Or stoned, either way.”

  3. Be honest now, who among us hasn’t had a youthful indiscretion of advocating violent cruelty to people in cages for nonviolent offenses?

    1. Ask the people at MADD who want to imprison drunk drivers that weren’t involved in any accident. Or the progressive douchebags that want to hold a gun owner criminally liable for the actions of a person who stole their property.

      1. Or the progressive douchebags that want to hold a gun owner criminally liable for the actions of a person who stole their property.

        Tulpa is a progressive?

        1. The hallmark of a progressive is the belief that the State has the right and the responsibility to force people to be better. So, maybe?

          1. Not only that, but only the state knows what’s moral (unless it is run by whomever the new Hitler is)

  4. To be fair, he was high on cocaine at the time.

    1. 1996 was a bad time to stop sniffing glue.

      1. Sniffing ground coconut and feeling no pain…

  5. I want to wait and see about Sessions but my gut tells me that this is a very scary guy.

    1. Yeah, when Rudy Giuliani starts to look sane by comparison, it might be time to dump this creep.

      1. I still would like to see the actual proposed law in question, rather than somebody’s synopsis of it.

        1. I agree. “In addition to ‘tort reform’ bills, Governor James and Attorney General Sessions have proposed 31 crime bills, that they propose will ‘fix a broken system,'” the magazine wrote.

          According to Alabama Lawyer, one of those bills, would have amended Alabama’s Drug Trafficking Enterprise Act to change the punishment for a second conviction from mandatory life imprisonment to a sentence of death.

          The bill included a host of other punitive proposals such as: (see list)

          IOW, several people came up with a bunch of crime bills, and 1 of them, supposedly had a bunch of draconian things in it.

          I am scared of Jeff Sessions like everyone else here. But this is pretty weak evidence to say he “mandated the death penalty”.

          1. He clearly wanted to. And would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those darn meddling kids. And their dog.

            1. *pulls off ghost mask*

              “Old man Sessions?!?!?!?”

            2. Darn meddling STONED kids. That’s why he’s against legalization.

          2. Yeah, proposing a Bill mandating the death penalty is weak evidence of mandating the death penalty.

            OK, it’s only one bill and could be a’compromise,’ but what about the rest of his record? It seems to be Draconian in all aspects.

            1. My point was not that he didn’t do it. It is that the what CJ wrote that was taken from a magazine is hardly proof that Sessions stated he was for mandatory death sentences for second time drug offenders.

              That is a pretty harsh statement for Leahy to make, and so far I haven’t seen any solid evidence to back it up.

    2. This guy, I would be okay with 10 different reason editors writing 19 different articles against.

    3. This

  6. Jeez, it’s not like he killed an elderly green-card holding Iraqi or something. Calm down.

  7. I’m glad after the last two weeks we can all come together and agree that human shitstain Jeff Sessions is the worst thing about the Trump administration.

    It’s a pity the Democrats refuse to coalesce around his hideous drug war stances instead of screaming racism over and over again. Otherwise this might be an educational moment for America.

    1. It is an educational moment for America, but it ends up being like a hog staring at a wrist-watch.

      Training the untrainable.

    2. This really doesn’t have anything to do with your comment but all of a sudden my Facebook is full of progressives fuming about their virtually useless (and incredibly expensive) ACA plans.

    3. “It’s a pity the Democrats refuse to coalesce around his hideous drug war stances address any real issues instead of screaming racism over and over again. Otherwise this might be an educational moment for America.”

    4. instead of screaming racism

      But they will oppose him because they perceive him to be a racist. So they may end up doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

      Perhaps rather than ally with the left, which I am now convinced is a bad thing, perhaps what we need to do is lead them into more things like this – they will always take the bait of racism, homophobia, sexism or transphobia.

      1. You mean have libertarians use the left, rather than the left using libertarians??

        HAHAHAHAHA

        What is the point of writing for Reason if not to try and appease the cosmos at the cocktail parties?

    5. I’m glad after the last two weeks we can all come together and agree that human shitstain Jeff Sessions is the worst thing about the Trump administration.

      Followed closely by the Mike Flynn, who is basically nuts.

      1. THE Mike Flynn?!?

  8. The primary qualification for Attorney General since Watergate is loyalty to the President and watching the President’s back on scandals and criminal prosecution.

    Sessions isn’t being appointed because of his views on the drug war. Sessions is being appointed because he proved his loyalty to Donald Trump. I wouldn’t worry too much about Sessions’ views.

    The Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President, and if Sessions ever goes against Trump, Trump has shown himself willing to fire such people.

    1. And this sanctifies him how?

      1. I didn’t say it sanctifies him. He’s a politician, fer Christ sakes.

        I’m saying I wouldn’t worry too much about him going off the rails. Executing drug dealers?

        Wigga, Puh-lease.

        I was concerned before because I thought he might do what Obama did a la Gonzales vs. Raich.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzales_v._Raich

        . . . but Trump has said that the state laws on marijuana should be respected.

        1. We’ll see on that one. I’m not buying it.

      2. It doesn’t, but Ken is still correct. AG is a balllicker and a watercarrier. I doubt Trump cares (or possibly even knows) that Sessions is an unreconstructed drug warrior and all around shitbag.

        1. I would take it even further. Considering the way Trump is, I believe Sessions will only continue to hold that job as long as he does what Trump really wants.

    2. Or Sessions is going to full retard and actually enforce the federal marijuana laws and seriously screw with the states that legalized, and teetotaler Trump will respond with a resounding, “Eh!”.

      1. See, I think he should enforce the federal laws as written, and in every state to boot. We either accept the rule of law or we accept the rule of man. I’m for the rule of law, because it would lead to the shitty laws being overturned by a legislature put under pressure by their constituents. The alternative is uneven enforcement depending on the whims of a prosecutor or geographic location within the borders of our nation.

        That’s no way to run a country.

        1. I agree with you. A huge federal crackdown on state legal marijuana dispensaries would be the quickest way to get the federal marijuana laws repealed.

          Marijuana reform is so popular now that if the Feds went against it, especially with Trump at the helm, the push back would be enormous.

  9. According to Alabama Lawyer

    the Editor in Chief at the time

    1. “Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, ah’m just a simply country lawyah…”

        1. Simply works

  10. You know who else wanted to execute drug dealers? I’m gonna stop the Hitler train right here by revealing some possible correct answers:

    a. Nukular Newt

    b. Rodrigo Duterte

    c. Both and b

    1. Well shit, c is supposed to read ‘both a and b’

      1. Duterte summarily executed your comment, Hyper. 😛

      2. Hitler?

  11. My flamingly Maoist coworker and I actually had a nice conversation today in which we both agreed that Jeff Sessions is an enormous asshole who should not be in government.

    I ended the conversation when she tried to steer it to how evil DeVos & school choice are. Lettuce have one pleasant memory.

    1. we both agreed that Jeff Sessions is an enormous asshole who should not be in government.

      arriving at the same answer is sometimes nice, but then there’s the whole “why” part.

      yours is = ‘because of his positions on X,Y,Z”
      her is = ‘because he’s TEAM RED NOT TEAM BLUE’

      you could have taken Session’s rationales, sprinkled the term “Superpredator” in there a few times, and told her it was Hillary’s view in 1996 and she’d have said, “well its unfortunate but i’m sure she’s moved on and learned from it”

      1. Actually in this particular instance, no, this chick isn’t a dem or dem apologist. I wasn’t joking or using hyperbole when I called her a Maoist. She hates Trump with the passion of a thousand suns, but has never said a kind word about Hillary, either, whom she accused of being a neoliberal conservative warmonger. She also regularly accuses the democrats of not actually caring about the plight of poor people and various oppressed categories.

        The only nice thing I ever heard her say about a democrat was that she appreciated the work some of the current black dems did during the Civil Rights era, but that they should have gotten out of politics a long time ago.

        She has also used the words, ” known capitalist”, as an epithet for describing someone she hates.

        1. Co-worker – ask how she likes her capitalist paycheck. If she accepts a paycheck accuse her of being a capitalist roader.

          1. ^^^ THIS ^^^

          2. Rage Against the Machine members already came up with the answer to this years ago: “Oh, well, I live in a capitalist system, so I’m forced to work within its economic structure, I’m not a hypocrite, gimme another royalty cheque.”

            1. I normally don’t let a band’s politics decide whether or not I like their music. I like Rise Against, and they are about as leftist as RATM. But, they aren’t quite as stupid about it.

              Oh, while I respect Tom Morello’s ability, their music sucks.

              1. ^^This^^

                The Clash were one of the greatest and most influential bands of the 20th Century. And their politics were mostly garbage.

        2. Sometimes it drives me a little nuts that communists can actually believe even for a second they hold the moral high ground over any belief system, much less capitalism.

  12. And especially when that presumptive attorney general is reportedly the “intellectual godfather” behind the current administration’s policies.

    From the linked article (which goes to DailyKos, which is !!!!!!!, but the story is from WaPo, which is !!!!):

    In a lengthy email, Bannon described Sessions as “the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy” in Trump’s administration, saying he and the senator are joined at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” and the global nationalist phenomenon.

    “In America and Europe, working people are reasserting their right to control their own destinies,” Bannon wrote. “Jeff Sessions has been at the forefront of this movement for years, developing populist nation-state policies that are supported by the vast and overwhelming majority of Americans, but are poorly understood by cosmopolitan elites in the media that live in a handful of our larger cities.”

    All of the poorly-thought out, unvetted, and chaotic executive orders of the last nine days? Sessions wanted all of that to happen faster. “The senator lobbied for a ‘shock and awe’ period of executive action that would rattle Congress, impress Trump’s base and catch his critics unaware, according to two officials involved in the transition planning.”

      1. To be fair, you were gonna do that anyway.

    1. So, what’s with the #2? Is this a handle change for the original CJ or are you someone new?

      Also, whitespace.

      1. There are troll breaks between his paragraphs. It’s a new writing style.

        1. I thought he was just getting super into jazz. “You have to read BETWEEN the comments, man!”

      2. So, what’s with the #2?

        I’m #2 because I’m the shit.

        are you someone new?

        Same ol’ awesome fella I always was.

        whitespace

        I’ve been bitten by the Trump bug.

      3. #2 is his ranking on the Hihn Approved Fascist List. And I’m still butthurt you beat me, somehow.

        1. Hihn’s ranking metrics must take Canadianness into account. It is known that a Canadian can only ever be 85% as fascist as a regular American, at maximum.

          1. Including the HAFL rank is a sweet idea though. Consider it stole, fool!

        2. Oh, duh, I should have figured the list thing out.

          I think the only reason I made it on the list is that I was the one who called him out on the lack of the list. Sorry, JT [proffers flask as a gesture of peace and friendship]

          Also, that weird list entry beginning with “J,” the name that nobody recognized, may have been a typo for JATNAS.

          1. JATNAS = jubistar? Hihn may be an unhinged lunatic, but at least he’s literate. He did decapitalize my X though…

          2. Wait, what? Did Hihn make an enemies list?

  13. I just read the issue of Alabama Lawyer that Sullum referred to. It is nothing more than the industry association magazine for Alabama lawyers. And the article about the crime bills, was written by 1 lawyer in the “Legislative Wrap-up” section. Not
    Sessions may very well have advocated all the things the rag (and Sullum) say. But in and of itself, this is bullshit evidence.

    1. Sullum didn’t write this article, and the linked pdf file included the text of the crime bill package.

      1. Sorry, I must have been high when I wrote my comment.

    2. Looked legit to me.

    3. And the linked PDF does NOT include the text of the crime package. It includes the summaries of the bills (and the bill numbers), but we have no idea of the accuracy of these summaries. And did the governor and Sessions submit a combined package with both of their names on all of the them? Or did Sessions recommend some and the governor some of the others?

      My point is that the sourcing in this article is not very good.

  14. My only hope is that all of the DoJ and State Department employees and all other bureaucrats resign in protest and we’re left with some peace and quiet.

  15. There’s plenty of reason to oppose Jeff Sessions. Unfortunately, the only reasons that seem to have gained any traction are “Jeff Sessions is a racist” and “Donald Trump is mean to little brown people”. Neither of those seem like a particularly good reason to sign on board.

    1. Yeah, he hates *tall* brown people, too!

        1. I don’t think Trump and Sessions waste much time on the dead. Unless they’re trying to keep them from voting.

  16. “[Y]ou have some very strong views,” Leahy said. “You even mandated the death penalty for anyone convicted of a second drug trafficking offense, including marijuana

    I know cannabis is getting very special treatment lately and that’s ok, but eventually it has to stop. You can’t put someone in prison for “trafficking” cocaine or heroin and then turn around and license marijuana shops and liquor stores. I’m just hoping one of these decades it’ll be the principle of self-ownership that will determine a politician’s stance on these issues instead of what’s in vogue.

  17. Somewhat OT: I took a break from the commentariat for most of the election. Can anyone explain what happened to Epi? Did he changes handles? Was he arrested for a NON victimless crime?

    1. Supposedly he agreed to lay off social media or something when he went to work for a local campaign. However, even though campaign season ended in November, he still hasn’t been around. He’s probably lying facedown in a Seattle gutter, with an empty bottle of vodka in his hand.

    2. Epi’s not here, man.

    3. Guess I haven’t missed him.

      Then again, if I was getting slapped in the face on the reg and it suddenly stopped for no discernible reason, I wouldn’t miss that, either.

      Just appreciate the tiny miracle of his absence, will ya?

    4. You’ll see him again in 10 to 12, maybe sooner with good behavior.

      1. In other words, 10 to 12.

    5. Just bask in the glory that is his absence and don’t question it.

      1. I miss the witty humor he brought to H&R. Also, his antics and charm.

        1. “Charm.”

          … I had to look this up to see if I was stroking out.

          If Epi gave you “delight or aroused admiration”… well, I guess I really am stroking out.

  18. The drug war is a likely price to be paid for Trump.

    I have some hope that they’ll go with federalism for pot.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.