In a recently published New York Times article by Adam Liptak entitled: A Tough Judge’s Proposal for Fairer Sentencing, Judge William G. Young of Federal District Court in Boston stated: “Prosecutors run our federal justice system today. Judges play a subordinate role — necessary yes, but subordinate nonetheless. Defense counsel take what they can get.”
An example of how the system works can be seen in the case of Jamel Dossie. According to Judge John Gleeson who led a team of prosecutors in the John Gotti trial, Jamel Dossie was a “a young, small-time, street-level drug dealer’s assistant.”
Mr. Dossie was an intermediary in four hand-to-hand crack sales, for which he made a total of about $140. Two of the sales exceeded, barely, the 28-gram threshold that allows prosecutors to call for a mandatory five-year sentence.
The prosecutors’ decision to invoke the law calling for a mandatory sentence in Mr. Dossie’s case meant that Judge Gleeson had no choice but to send Mr. Dossie away for five years. Had his hands not been tied, Judge Gleeson wrote, “there is no way I would have sentenced” Mr. Dossie to so long a sentence.
The Dossie case illustrates what some judges say is a common problem: Prosecutors’ insistence on mandatory minimum sentences for minor players in the drug trade has warped the criminal justice system and robbed judges of sentencing authority.
“The only reason for the five-year sentence imposed on Dossie,” Judge Gleeson wrote, “is that the law invoked by the prosecutor required it. It was not a just sentence.”