Traditionally, it has not been the guilt or innocence of a defendant,
but the SENTENCE, thereto imposed, that has shaken the very foundation of our communities.
2016 may be one of the best years in ALL the history of criminal SENTENCING.
All of you who follow me know why I believe that the criminal justice system has been ONE OF THE DRIVING FORCES behind the decimation of minority communities. The UNIT in the home makes up the NEIGHBORHOOD, the neighborhood the COMMUNITY, the community the COUNTY, the county the STATE, and the state the NATION. It is easy to see that an entire NATION of people can be affected by law and policy. If we put the right/wrong people in position to pull the strings then we do not need a MASS conspiracy to harm a faction of people, just the inductive influence of the FEW. Senior Congressional officials, in my view, are the FEW. They elect our judges (via confirmation) and help foster, via their initiatives, a culture where exercising a Constitutional Right to speak out against civil injustice and senseless police killings is seen by many Americans as unpatriotic.
Many of my close friends have gained relief or will be on review for relief, per the JUVENILE ISSUE. The Juvenile Issue is: No matter the crime committed a JUDGE MUST factor in the mitigating factors of a youth/adolescent (24 & under) BEFORE they are sentenced. The Constitution proscribes that a juvenile cannot be held as culpable as an adult for committing the SAME crime, unless a JUDGE first assesses the mitigating factors of youth.
Because this issue is retroactive, which means it applies to cases that are final (no longer on direct appeal), many defendants have had their cases reviewed. Most recently, The Second Circuit granted a Second and Successive Petition, based on this issue for a guy I know who has been fighting diligently to get back to his loved ones. He has been in prison 21+ years.
If you know a prisoner who has a CONSPIRACY that started when they were a juvenile, contact me for more information. If you are a D.C. prisoner who committed the crimes of their case between the ages of 15-21, contact me. If you know someone who has been in prison since they were a juvenile and you want more on this issue, please contact me. Lastly, if you know someone with a MANDATORY LIFE SENTENCE for a murder committed while they were between the ages of 15-21, please contact me.
This case has been monumental. The USA TODAY has even written articles on it. Understand that the majority of defendants locked up in Federal and State prisons are there due to POLICIES & INITIATIVES that have been passed by U.S. Congressional Officials. State law-makers usually take these policies and get them passed in their STATES so that it may help them to ascend to the U.S. Congress or gain some political cache. The President finds the majority of these policies too harsh and has called for CHANGE. But if you read
The Speaker of the House’s (Goodlatte- R) take on it- Fair is Fair. The law is the law, and the President should RESPECT THE LAW. The communities in his constituency do not care, so why should he…right?
The Johnson case has taken a HUGE bite out of the practice of Prosecutors using a defendant’s past criminal conduct to enhance their sentence. For instance, if I robbed someone in 1993 and sold marijuana in 1999, then I catch another case in 2012, then a prosecutor -based on my past crimes- can use that to give me a 15 year MANDATORY minimum term. I won’t go into it, but the penalties are exponentially steeper when it comes to committing drug offenses in succession. Under some situations, such as The Armed Career Criminal Statute (ACCA), the judge has NO SAY in applying this STIFF mandatory penalty. Johnson has helped to change this. Prosecutors are creative by nature so they began using crimes that were not crimes of violence to give defendants these hash mandatory terms of imprisonment. Judges have called for CHANGE, but Congress can’t seem to get together to do right, not by us but THE CONSTITUTION. This is the story not told on CNN and Fox News.
The U. S. Supreme Court will hear a case called BECKLES this term. The BECKLES case will answer ONE QUESTION ONLY: Does the Vagueness Doctrine apply to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines? Traditionally, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines have not been considered by courts to hold the same “EFFECT OF LAW” as a criminal statute, which is odd since they can be used to drive a 12 year sentence to a de facto mandatory LIFE sentence. Justice Sotomayor who has been a CHAMPION, along with The Notorious R.B.G. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), has explained in a case called PEUGH, that the Guidelines Do have the “FORCE & EFFECT” of a statute , when it comes to CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES (like the Due Process’ Ex Post Facto Clause). It will be interesting to see how the majority will frame the holding. Remember there are eight Justices. A majority decision or plural opinion is preferred but not a split decision of 4-4. Beware of this caveat.
For anyone who has a drug case whose INDIVIDUAL CULPABILITY was not assessed at sentencing I ask you to contact me. For example: if you only sold (per the transcripts) a small portion of the drugs in a Conspiracy but got sentenced as if you sold all the drugs in the Conspiracy, please contact me. My great example is ‘The 10 Kilo Cocaine Conspiracy’ where three guys are apart of this Conspiracy and one guy sells one kilo, the other sells four kilos and the other sells five kilos. This places the conspirators in different categories. The 1 kilo guy should be sentenced under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(C). The 4 kilo guy should be sentenced under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(B). The 5 kilo guy should be sentenced under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(A).
We have an argument for guys who have previously argued certain APPRENDI, BOOKER and ALLEYNE issues to the court concerning there individual drug weight. We are waiting until AFTER Beckles is decided before we begin filing these motions, but we are contacting defendants about this issue prior to BECKLES. In short, if BECKLES rules that a Constitutional Doctrine (The Vagueness Doctrine) can affect the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, then it would also follow that other Constitutional Doctrines should do the same. What will this do? It will allow cases that are final to finally have some legal pretext to have their claims heard pursuant to their individual culpability. Please remember, just last term, WELCH, who was a pro se litigant like you, argued something similar to the Supreme Court and they agreed with him. So do not give up.
On August the 3, 2016, President Obama changed his strategy on granting clemency. He is now considering “TERM Reductions”. This means, for example, that if you had a plea 25 years and instead went to trial and got LIFE, then he is now checking to see if the “TRIAL PENALTY” ( The penalty defendants get when they exercise their Constitutional Right to go to trial) caused the extra amount of time. HE is individually assessing your crime and punishment and granting a term that will end in release outside of prison instead of INSIDE of prison.
Moreover, The President has broadened his Clemency Initiative. Applicants who were previously denied for certain reasons would now not be denied for those same reasons.
I advise you to consider your case carefully. If you got a ton of bodies I do not know if it is a good idea to re-file or file. But if you were previously denied and did not have violence,
I would re-file IMMEDIATELY if I were you. As stated before House Speaker Goodlatte (R) is opposed to Clemency.
This is merely and update. In my view. If you are doing decades in prison or have or know a loved one in prison doing unnecessary amounts of time for their crime, please contact me. UNIVERSAL LAW states what we want for others is what we will receive for ourselves.
Eric Van Buren
Author of The Art of Winning Litigation
Co-Founder of The TAWL Foundation