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Congress Not Racially Discriminatory in Crack Sentences; Eighth Circuit Reverses Judge Cahill in Clary


September-October 1994

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a decision that found that treating an amount of crack cocaine as 100 times the same amount in powder cocaine for sentencing purposes to be unconstitutional (U.S. v. Clary, CA 8, No. 94-1422, Sept. 12, 1994, reversing 846 F.Supp. 768, 54 CrL 1502). The lower court ruled that "unconscious racism" was reflected in the crack cocaine mandatory minimums, which the court said were hastily written in response to media clamor . The Eighth Circuit found that there was no evidence of overt or deliberate racial discrimination on the part of Congress.

The court identified the testimony of Eric E. Sterling, president of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, as "the most pertinent" to their decision. Sterling testified on behalf of the defendant in a post-conviction hearing on race discrimination in the crack sentencing, stating that the members of Congress were not acting out of conscious racism, but a "racial consciousness" or awareness based in media hype.