Columnist George Will Denounces Mandatory Minimums


Writing in the Washington Post, conservative columnist George Will denounces mandatory minimum sentences, citing arguments earlier this year by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of New York. The judge, Will writes, “expresses his dismay that although his vocation is the administration of justice, his function frequently is the infliction of injustice. The policy of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses has empowered the government to effectively ify the constitutional right to a trial.”

Will notes that Gleeson is “dismayed at the use of the threat of mandatory minimums as ‘sledgehammers’ to extort guilty pleas, effectively vitiating the right to a trial. Ninety-seven percent of federal convictions are without trials, sparing the government the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Mere probable cause, and the meager presentation required for a grand jury indictment, suffices,” and “prosecutors become sentencers.” And when threats of draconian sentences compel guilty pleas, “some innocent people will plead guilty.”

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