to be adduced on the entire subject of the recent case transfers from Superior Court. Upon consideration of that evidence and those arguments, the Court finds that the transfers have had the effect in a substantial proportion of the cases of violating the defendants' due process and speedy trial rights, and it hereby reaffirms the conclusions reached in the Roberts case.
As for the defendant Vernon Holland, he was treated much like many of the other transferees. He was arrested on February 16, 1989, for possession with intent to distribute cocaine,
and two days later he was presented in Superior Court. On May 18, 1989, counsel for Holland's co-defendant Mills filed a motion to suppress, based upon an allegedly illegal no-knock entry, and Holland subsequently joined in that motion. Apparently because of the no-knock problem, the defendants were offered guilty pleas to the offense of attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine,
but because of their strong expectation of prevailing on the motion
the defendants rejected the offer. The case was accordingly set for trial for October 5, 1989. However, on that date it was continued to October 17, 1989
when the Superior Court granted the government's motion to dismiss the charges.
In any event, several weeks earlier, on September 21, 1989, the prosecution had already secured indictments against these defendants in this Court for possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack. That offense carries a mandatory five-year minimum penalty and a maximum penalty of forty years -- far higher than the punishment for the offense for which defendants were indicted in Superior Court
and even more so than that to which they had been offered pleas by the prosecution before the suppression issue arose.
It is the Court's conclusion that, like a number of the other defendants, Holland has been deprived of his rights under the Due Process Clause and under the Speedy Trial Act, and the charges against him will therefore be dismissed.
Lamar Harris was convicted of two conspiracy counts, use of juveniles in drug trafficking, six counts of unlawful use of a firearm in aid of drug trafficking, four counts of distribution of cocaine, one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, and on October 18, 1989, this Court sentenced him pursuant to the federal sentencing statute and the Sentencing Commission guidelines to imprisonment for life plus fifty-five years. Thereafter, defendant moved to preclude application of the guidelines
on the basis that these guidelines violate the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
There is no merit to the Eighth Amendment challenge. In Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 103 S. Ct. 3001, 77 L. Ed. 2d 637 (1983), the Supreme Court established a three-part test for determining whether a particular sentence of imprisonment passes the proportionality analysis required under Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 30 S. Ct. 544, 54 L. Ed. 793 (1910), and Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S. Ct. 3368, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1140 (1982). The part of the test here relevant is that which requires a court to consider "the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty." Solem, 463 U.S. at 292.
At least two Circuits have recently upheld sentences of life imprisonment for drug offenders in application of this standard. Young v. Miller, 883 F.2d 1276, 1283 (6th Cir. 1989); Terrebonne v. Butler, 848 F.2d 500, 504 (5th Cir. 1988) (en banc), both stating that the distribution of drugs in large quantities is very serious in that, while a murderer kills only a single victim, "the foul hand of the drug dealer blights life after life and like the vampire of fable, creates others in its own evil image. . . ." While the Court of Appeals for this Circuit has not yet had occasion to express itself on this subject, this Court has no hesitancy in associating itself with the conclusion reached by and the language used in the Young and Terrebonne cases. Indeed, what this Court said at the time it imposed sentence on Harris and his co-defendants expresses its view with respect to the claim that the offenses of which the defendants were convicted are not of sufficient gravity to justify the harshness of the penalty:
[The defendants] supplied thousands of men, women and children with crack. . . . Juveniles were used on some substantial scale in the distribution of this cocaine. The members of the conspiracy possessed many weapons . . . The Court must impose punishment for causing a deliberate breakdown of law and order . . . [and to send] a message to others [that] if you bring large amounts of drugs into the District of Columbia for sale, and particularly if it operated with weapons and with violence, you will go to the penitentiary for a long time, perhaps for life. . . .