The Champion

April 2007 , Page 20 

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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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