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October 09, 1996 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-09

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8 - The Michigan Daily -- Wednesday, October 9, 1996


Judges refuse to hand
down mandated sentences
Concerns about racial disparity fuel protest


The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Over the last
decade, worries about racial disparity in
criminal sentencing have erupted in
furious debate, with black leaders loud-
ly demanding that long-ignored dispar-
ities be confronted and federal officials
insisting that reforms have all but elim-
inated discrimination in the length of
prison terms.
A more-resolute protest has come
from the federal bench. Judges from
Washington state to Washington, D.C.,
have refused to hand down heavy sen-
tences required under the law because
of concerns about racial disparity.
To judges like U.S. District Judge
Terry Hatter of Los Angeles, an ardent
foe of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines,
the sentencing reforms and mandatory
minimum sentences imposed by
Congress for certain crimes have creat-
ed a lopsided system.
In that system, a criminal such as for-
mer Panamanian leader Manuel
Noriega can strike a deal ensuring no

more than 35 years in prison while
"almost every Monday," Hatter said,
"I'm asked to pass out sentences that
carry mandatory minimums of 20
years, 40 years and sometimes life
without the possibility of parole, and
it's always to a young minority male.
Hatter said the toughest sentences are
now strictly "applied to basically one
group of people: poor minority peo-
ple," who are not well connected or do
not have attorneys capable of making a
deal that "finesses the rules."
Other judges across the country have
complained about the system's unfair-
ness and voiced nagging concerns that
reforms mandated by Congress have
created new inequalities in the way jus-
tice is administered:
Last December, U.S. District
Judge Raymond Jackson of Norfolk,
Va., dismissed drug charges after pros-
ecutors refused to turn over working
papers to show whether they selectively
prosecuted black defendants while giv-

ing immunity to whites in the sam
case. Federal prosecutors later said in
court filings that they had indicted 25
blacks but did not bring charges against
50 other blacks and five whites. The
case is under review by an appeals court
in Richmond.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo
Marshall in 1993 dismissed the indict-
ments of several black defendants in
Los Angeles charged with crack traf-
ficking. She did so after the defendants
argued that they had been targeted for
prosecution under stiffer federal penal-
ties rather than state laws, and the gov-
ernment failed to comply with
Marshall's order to identify The race of
all persons charged with federal drug
crimes over a three-year period. The
government appealed, and this year the
U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the
defendants, saying a race-based sele -
tive prosecution claim must show t ht
whites in similar circumstances had not
been prosecuted. The case is back in
trial court.

Tax exemptions at risk in Colo.

U Lawyer targets
churches, nonprofit
Los Angeles Times
FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Nodding
to the beat of Irish folk ballads on the
tape deck of a motor home plastered
with political slogans, John Patrick
Michael Murphy plied Colorado's inter-
states recently to preach his gospel:
Churches and most nonprofit organiza-
tions should no longer be exempt from
property taxes.
With a personal campaign contribu-
tion of $60,000, the Colorado Springs
trial lawyer managed the improbable
feat of getting a state initiative on the
November ballot to end tax exemptions
for 8,300 churches and nonprofit
groups - including the Boy Scouts,
Easter Seals, Moose and Elk lodges,
Meals-on-Wheels and Planned
Facing opponents that include every
church and nonprofit group in the state
and a political coalition that hopes to
raise $750,000 for TV advertising time,
market research and campaign manage-
ment, Murphy is fighting a quixotic
war of sorts.
But he is sponsoring Amendment 11
because, he argues, if churches and
nonprofit groups paid taxes, homeown-

ers would pay less and have more
money on hand to support community
organizations of their choice.
"They want to put horns and hooves
on me because I'm acting like an
American in a free and equal country
exercising my rights," he said. "My
point is simply this: Everyone who
uses police and fire protection and
other public services should share the
costs of paying for those services. It's
only fair."
Behind the
wheel of the If
motor home passes7 I
that he calls /
"Freddy," Church wi
Murphy added:
"If this thing biggest hi
passes, theo
Church will
suffer its - John Patrick
biggest hit Col
since the birth
of Voltaire."
Mobilized under the slogan "Don't
hurt the helpers," opponents fear what
they believe could be a death knell for
local community services and a bell-
wether issue that may resonate nation-
wide among increasingly tax-conscious
middle-class citizens.
"If this thing gets serious considera-

tion in Colorado, we will see it pro-
posed elsewhere," said Greg Kail;,a-
spokesperson for the Catholic
Archdiocese of Denver. "This at a time
when the welfare reform bill is asking
people, not government, to shoulder the
burden of taking care of the most vul-
nerable populations."
Recent polls showed the campaign
against the initiative leading, 49 percent

to 39 percent. The



Ie catholic
ill suffer its
it since the
®Itaire. "
k Michael Murphy
orado trial lawyer

good news for
Murphy and a
handful of
financial back-
ers is that at
least 7 percent
of respondents
said they were
"My biggest
fear is that this
initiative is so
and counterin-
tuitive that it

will lead to
apathy and complacency on election
day," said opponent Chris Paulson, for-
mer state House majority leader and
chairman of Citizen Action for
Colorado Non-Profits. "Murphy is such
a slick salesman that he has been able to
obscure the watershed issue, which is
whether or not society will turn its back
on the helpers."


.0 1 1


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