FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts

Photo by Chairman of the Joint Chief | CC BY 2.0

Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against drug dealers when they can.  Using the cover of the opioid epidemic, Sessions stated capital punishment will aid in the fight against drug trafficking in general.

Do not let anyone tell you Jeff Sessions’ memo directing prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in drug cases is anything but a purposeful attempt to significantly increase the incarceration population.  There are only a few select drug crimes in which the death penalty is available as a punishment.  All of the crimes cited by Sessions, except one, involve murder.  See 18 U.S.C. § 1959 (racketeering resulting in death); 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) (use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime); and 21 U.S.C. § 848(e) (murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise).

The one that doesn’t involve murder is dealing in large quantities of drugs.  See 18 U.S.C. 3591(b)(1).  In other words, if you sell enough dope, you are subject to execution.  Normally, only ultra kingpins could possibly sell enough dope to be eligible for execution under § 3591(b)(1).  This is where things get dark for low to mid-level methamphetamine dealers.

As exhaustively detailed by Federal District Court Judge Mark W. Bennet of the Northern District of Iowa, the criminalization of methamphetamine was originally based on purity.  United States v. Hayes, 948 F.Supp.2d 1009 (N.D. Iowa 2013).  Five grams of pure meth was punished as severely as 50 grams of a substance containing a detectable amount of meth.  The rationale was that five grams of pure meth equaled ten times the weight on the street because the pure meth was being sold from kingpins to mid to low-level dealers, who then cut the pure meth before selling it.  Essentially, Congress equated purity with drug dealer hierarchy.

Fast forward to today, and the law remains the same.  If you deal in quantities of pure meth, you’re a kingpin.  The problem is that this has no basis in reality.  Today, all methamphetamine sold on the street is pure.  If you want a citation for that, go ask your local deputy county attorney or assistant united states prosecutor, they’ll tell you: street meth is pure.  There’s so much pure meth around that you couldn’t sell shit meth at a discount.  Despite judges and various other persons noting this flaw in the criminalization of methamphetamine, nothing has been done.  See Hayes, 948 F.Supp.2d at 1015; United States v. Goodman, 556 F.Supp.2d 1002, 1016 (D. Neb. 2008).  Low to mid-level dealers face penalties that were intended for kingpins.  We’re talking five to ten year mandatory minimums for emaciated addicts, 23-year-olds, and the homeless.  Low to mid-level dealers are, and always have been, addicts.  They sell meth to get high; none of them profit.  Most are broke.   The only thing new is that the meth they sell now is pure.

Sessions exploits this uncorrected flaw.  Under the law, 6.6 pounds of pure methamphetamine makes you eligible for the death penalty.  See 18 U.S.C. 3591(b)(1).  This does not mean a one-time deal of 6.6 pounds.  It means over the course of time a person deals 6.6 pounds.  Decades ago, 6.6 pounds of pure meth made you a kingpin.  Today, 6.6 pounds of pure meth makes you a low to mid-level dealer.  Sessions exploited a flaw to leverage the death penalty against low to mid-level dealers.  The result will be either execution, or, more likely, a significant amount of persons pleading guilty to the mandatory minimum of ten years in exchange for their life.  These persons are drug addicts, not kingpins.  No civilized society would execute them, let alone leverage the threat of execution to incarcerate them longer.

Chuck Gerhart as an attorney who works in criminal justice. 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
March 31, 2020
Jonathan Cook
Netanyahu Uses Coronavirus to Lure Rival Gantz into ‘Emergency’ Government
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of CoronaShock
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Chernobyl Moment: the US May Lose Its Status as World Superpower and Not Recover
Roger Harris
Beyond Chutzpah: US Charges Venezuela With Nacro-Terrorism
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Has America Reached Its Endgame in Afghanistan?
Thomas Klikauer
COVID-19 in Germany: Explaining a Low Death Rate
Dave Lindorff
We’ve Met the Enemy and It’s a Tiny Virus
Binoy Kampmark
Barbaric Decisions: Coronavirus, Refusing Bail and Julian Assange
Nicolas J S Davies
Why is the U.S. so Exceptionally Vulnerable to Covid-19?
James Bovard
The Deep State’s Demolition of Democracy
Michael Doliner
Face Off: the Problem With Social Distancing
John Feffer
The Politics of COVID-19
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s Cure and Our Disease
Howard Lisnoff
The Fault Lines of a Failed Society Begin to Open Up Into Chasms
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba: An Example of Solidarity In a Time of Crisis
Ralph Nader
Out of the Coronavirus Crisis Can Come Efficient Historic Changes for Justice
Thomas Stephens
Apocalyptic and Revolutionary Education in Times of Pandemic
Edward Martin
Erik Olin Wright and the Anti-Capitalist Economy
March 30, 2020
Marshall Auerback
Washington Uses the Pandemic to Create a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Its Cronies
Ron Jacobs
Going After Maduro
Justin Podur
When Economists Try to Solve Health Crises, the Results Can Often be Disastrous
Thomas Knapp
Decarceration: COVID-19 is Opportunity Knocking
Arshad Khan - Meena Miriam Yust
Dying Planet and a Virus Unleashed
William Astore
How My Dad Predicted the Decline of America
Seth Sandronsky
Reclaiming Vacant Homes in the COVID-19 Pandemic
John G. Russell
Racial Profiling Disorder: the All-American Pandemic
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
As the World Tackles the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. Raises the Pressure on Venezuela
Laura Flanders
Covid-19: Our Health Crisis is Born of Bigotry
Cesar Chelala
The New World of Coronavirus
Lawrence Wittner
The World’s Major Military and Economic Powers Find Happiness Elusive
Ted Rall
My Dead French Grandfather Helped Me with COVID-19
Rob Okun
A Citizens’ Call to Invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Ashar Foley
COVID-19 Proves It: We Need Medicare-for-All
Robert Koehler
The Virus is Our Teacher
Wim Laven
Are You Prepared to Needlessly Die for Your Country?
Jill Richardson
Stay Home, Stay Angry
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What’s Wrong with Ranked Choice Voting
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Sues Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation for Bull Trout Fatalities in Saint Mary-Milk River Irrigation Project on the east Side of Glacier National Park
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail