Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Snitch" is Coming to a Theater Near You -- Soon!

Call us a bunch of sentencing nerds, but we love us a movie trailer that mentions mandatory minimum sentences -- and features Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt, Barry Pepper and a whole lot of other big-name actors in a story about how utterly messed up our drug sentencing system is.

The movie:  "Snitch."  The brand new trailer:  below.  It releases February 22, 2013, and we can hardly wait.

Snitching -- also known as providing "substantial assistance" to the prosecution by giving it information that helps the government arrest and charge other drug offenders -- is one of the only ways to avoid receiving a mandatory minimum sentence for a federal drug crime.  

Substantial assistance raises serious questions about the integrity and fairness of our justice system.  What if people lie and provide false testimony to escape a mandatory minimum sentence?  We're only kidding ourselves if we think there are no innocent people going to federal prison for drug crimes -- or drug quantities -- they had nothing to do with.  And the U.S. Sentencing Commission has found (see page 186) that drug offenders who are higher up in a conspiracy (and thus have more information to trade) are more likely to provide substantial assistance and get sentences below the mandatory minimums -- the very sentences Congress intended to apply to the higher-up figures in drug conspiracies.  The small fish don't have as much information to offer in exchange for a shorter sentence.  Is this fair? 

For some truly disturbing stories about the dangers of snitching, check out this article from The New York Times and this story from The New Yorker.

P.S.  A one-word reason that fans of The Wire should see this movie:  Omar!  See if you can spot him in the trailer.