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+Baratunde Thurston has anyone done anything substantial anywhere, in comedy or otherwise, on the fact that more than 90% of the institutional racism in the criminal justice system (as measured by the cause of disproportionate prison population race) takes place in district attorney offices' decisions on whether to charge defendants with crimes carrying a mandatory minimum sentence?

"According to M. Marit Rehavi of the University of British Columbia and Sonja B. Starr, who teaches criminal law at the University of Michigan Law School, the racial disparities can be explained 'in a single prosecutorial decision: whether to file a charge carrying a mandatory minimum sentence….Black men were on average more than twice as likely to face a mandatory minimum charge as white men were, holding arrest offense as well as age and location constant.' Prosecutors are about twice as likely to impose mandatory minimums on black defendants as on white defendants."
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The ACLU, extensively. Various bar associations, occasionally.
 
I don't know if it's that proportion, but it's definitely a HUGE factor. That, and the existence of mandatory minimums in the first place. I'd be interested to see breakdowns in historical prison populations correlated with the rise of the "three strikes and out" and other similar legislation that removes discretion from judges.
 
Auto-Tune the News poked at it a bit in one of their earlier sketches, but that's the only acknowledgement that comes to mind offhand.
 
Some stuff I found:
http://aclu.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000733 (left column)
General opposition to mandatory minimum: http://aclu-or.org/content/criminal-justice-vote-“no”-measure-73-2010
http://www.mediamouse.org/news/2008/12/aclu-urges-stat.php
http://www.neurosoup.com/institutional_racism_kcole.pdf
http://nems360.com/view/full_story/12537917/article-ACLU--State-sentencing-law-harsher-on-blacks?instance=special_coverage_bullets_right_column (this one is more about the diff on crack vs cocaine sentencing)

Oh, this is interesting: http://www.civilrights.org/publications/justice-on-trial/prosecutorial.html

This one implies hispanics get it even worse (might be regional?) http://www.ussc.gov/Legislative_and_Public_Affairs/Congressional_Testimony_and_Reports/Mandatory_Minimum_Penalties/20111031_RtC_PDF/Executive_Summary.pdf (Hispanic offenders accounted for the largest group (38.3%) of offenders convicted of an offense carrying a mandatory minimum penalty, followed by Black offenders at 31.5 percent, White offenders at 27.4 percent and Other Race offenders at 2.7 percent.)

But I'm not finding studies other than that last link, per se...
 
That's very interesting. I would not have thought that there would be such a singular bottle neck like that. It does, suggest, however, that a fix would be "relatively" easy to effect (or at the least, only need to target a precise section of the prosecutorial pipeline).
 
This is why sometimes liberals too favor removing discretion from the equation. When you look at numbers like that it's hard not to assume a significant bias. Before there were mandatory sentences, you could see similar disparities in the sentences handed out for the same crime by judges.
 
I don't have the numbers. But I'd be curious.

If I were intending to fix this, I would consider the statistics akin to the jury pool composition statistics. If the differential in preemptory challenges between jurors of different races is significant, there is an assumption that there is a significant problem. These stats should be kept & the DAs should be forced to justify them to the courts.
 
Interesting figures..but i don't buy it. Certainly O.J. will disagree~ LOL
 
In CA, mandatory minimum sentences are around the three strikes law (which did not apply to OJ), to weapons (guns) offenses (which did not apply to OJ), and to drug possession (again which did not apply to OJ).

I am still looking for the original charges against him (presumably for the Nicole Brown murders) but I rather suspect in this case, he was not charged with anything that carried a mandatory minimum sentence.
 
Interestingly: In the Supreme Court case United States vs. Booker, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory sentencing guidelines created by the Federal Government cannot be considered mandatory anymore but should be considered advisory. The court found that the guidelines violated American’s Sixth Amendment rights to a trial by jury. The decision came down in 2005, and the guidelines must be considered advisory on the state level as well as the Federal level. A judge presiding over a case must calculate the guidelines and consider them when deciding on a sentence but they are no longer required to issue sentences within the guidelines. The sentences handed down by the judge in a case are still subject to appellate review.
 
+Cindy Brown en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Booker didn't exactly do that. It still requires "maintaining a strong connection between the sentence imposed and the offender's real conduct — a connection important to the increased uniformity of sentencing that Congress intended its Guidelines system to achieve." In practice that means district trial courts still impose the same sentences -- when Booker was re-sentenced, he got the exact same 30 years. The only real discretion has been given to appellate courts on review, and apparently they haven't reduced many sentences at all.
 
The Nicole Simpson trial was in 1995; it may well be that there were no mandatory minimums that could be applied to him then that would be today. CA's three strikes was the first of these, and that was enacted in 1995 or so (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_strikes_law notes the proposition passed in 1994, so implementation likely took a year or so to take effect).
 
It looks like the discretion factor simply moved from the judges' bench to the prosecuting attorneys office. And if we were to somehow strike that, then it'd probably move down the pipeline. I really think it would be best to put it back onto the judges. That is what they are trained to do. And I'd much rather return to more discretion on the part of judges anyway. Who the fuck wants a one size doesn't fit all? There are different reasons people have for doing the same thing, and if we don't even look at that, we wind up being even more cruel and capricious in our uncaring uniformity. Kind of like that story where travellers were cut down to size or stretched out on a rack to fit the same bed.
 
Re OJ: He was acquitted by the jury. The mandatory minimums have no relevance to him. (And as someone carefully listened to what evidence was available, I understand why the jury acquitted him.)

Cindy: I agree that the discretion was moved from the judges/juries to the DA. I'd be curious to see whether the racial differential has gone up or down as a result. I suspect they increased in some areas (where the juries were primarily white) and went down in others.
 
Yes, I had the same sort of question, although some of the stuff I reviewed yesterday suggested that DAs were more likely to be racially biased than the judges. But I'd have to go back & pull the numbers... Won't be till much later, if today.
 
(Although my point with OJ was that he wasn't even charged with anything that had mandatory minimum sentencing in the first place.)
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