When the justices of the United States Supreme Court confer privately this morning to consider new cases, one on the docket tests not just the meaning of their own recent Sixth Amendment cases but also the viability of a new policy initiative by the Justice Department to bring more fairness to federal sentencing while reducing the terrible costs of prison overcrowding, writes Andrew Cohen for TheAtlantic.com.
In Gomez v. United States, a Massachusetts case, the justices have been asked to determine whether they meant what they wrote about juries and drug sentences in Alleyne v. United States, decided this past June, and at the same time whether Attorney General Eric Holder meant what he said in August when he promised to curb the ways in which his federal prosecutors abuse “mandatory minimum” sentences in drug cases to obtain guilty pleas (or higher sentences). The defendant in the pending case is a man named Clarvee Gomez and his case is the story of how federal prosecutors manipulated allegations of two separate drug transactions to gain a higher sentence, Cohen says. The first such “deal” occurred in Florida in September 2008. The second occurred in Lawrence, Ma., three months later when undercover agents saw Gomez leave a building where a drug deal had taken place.