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The Claiborne Case and Crack-Powder Disparity Issues
By Anne E. Blanchard
Although the crack-powder disparity is not at issue before the Supreme
Court yet, it is present in the background in one of the two Booker
reasonableness cases now pending — United States v. Claiborne. In fact,
the 100-to-1 crack-powder differential is a looming presence in both the
record and the briefs of this potentially pivotal sentencing case. At
the very least, Claiborne provides a vivid illustration not only of the
dramatic differences in sentences produced by crack as compared to
powder, but of the portentous role that drug quantity alone has been
given in federal sentencing.
Claiborne comes out of the Eighth Circuit. This is the circuit that has
developed a well-earned reputation for affirming (all) within-Guideline
sentences and (nearly all) above-Guidelines sentences as reasonable, and
reversing as unreasonable below-Guideline sentences time and time
again. Mario Claiborne was convicted of possessing 5.03 grams of crack and possessing with intent t
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