Eons ago, back in 2008, Tarahrick Terry, some random fucking crackhead, got his dumb ass busted with some crack—about 4 grams. To put that in perspective, a nickel is 5 grams. So basically, it was mountains of the stuff (sarcasm).
Because we have many drug laws written in an era that racism was still quite prevalent in government, crack cocaine, the drug of choice for the black community back then (it’s cheaper than regular cocaine), carries a much more severe penalty than regular cocaine, the drug white people tended to use, that is more expensive. At the time, it was a 100:1 ratio, which is fucking crazy. And while some people throw around racism pretty willy nilly, this law was in fact passed with intent to control the black population at the heart of it.
Terry was sent up the pokey for 188 months for his indiscretion! Over fifteen fucking years, for having some recreational crack on him. Fucking crazy!
In more modern times, this bill came to be a shining example of systemic racism, and in 2010, then president Barack Obama signed a bill reducing the 100:1 disparity down to 18:1. Because apparently the non-racist 1:1 number wasn’t deemed proper, a little racism is still apparently important to keep the wheels of justice turning.
Terry, seeing an opportunity to reduce his sentence by making the new standard retroactive, challenged his sentence in court. He was like, “Y’all motherfuckers knew this was wrong, and some racist bullshit, which is why you passed this new fucking law. I get it, I’m guilty and broke your dumb fucking laws, but my sentence is fucked up and you need to reduce it.”
In 2018, congress and Donald Trump passed the First Step Act, making sentencing reforms retroactive, allowing past offenders to be resentenced. Because you know, Donald Trump was a total bigot and hated black people (sarcasm). While I was no fan of Trump, I think the argument he was akin to some KKK person, was absolute nonsense, and while he was a grade A asshole, he was painted out to be an even bigger asshole than he really was. But anyway, moving on.
So here’s where it gets kinda silly. Aside from the 100:1 disparity, they also adjusted the tiers. The tiers were tier three = 0-5 grams, tier two = 5-50 grams, and tier one = 50+. The more you had, the bigger the sentence you got, since it would seem you were a dealer, not a user.
In the First Step Act, congress made tier one 280 grams and above, and tier two 28-280 grams. One would think then, that tier three was now 0-28 grams, right? RIGHT? Well, those no math doing motherfuckers didn’t fucking adjust tier three. It’s still 0-5 grams. So apparently, if you have between 5 and 28, you hit Bingo and and you’re free to go?
Now, here’s where Terry gets fucked. The First Step Act allowed for people whose sentences were modified by the law, to get resentenced. But as I just mentioned, tier three wasn’t fucking modified. So the courts were like, “Fuck you Terry, you aren’t part of this shit. Rot in jail, motherfucker.”
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled against Terry, and probably not uncoincidentally, the court’s only black justice, Clarence Thomas, wrote the opinion.
At first glance, one might think this is the court supporting systemic racism to it’s core. However, knowing the court still has three left wing justices who are the last people to support racism, it’s clear they were abiding by the text of the law, and effectively telling congress it’s their job to fucking fix this. That 5-28 golden spot is blatantly there for all to see, and it’s up to them to amend the law to cover that gap as they should have the first time they wrote it.
In their concurrence, they make clear that according to the law, if Terry were busted today for the same thing, he’d get the same sentence. So even if they overturn this, otherwise will befall the same fate. In her opinion, Sotomayor, made clear that the disparity between crack and cocaine was ridiculous, and was a clearly racist law. However, that was not the question they were faced. Hopefully, a new congress and a new president will see fit to fix this nonsense once and for all.
Read about the case and/or hear oral arguments at Oyez here or at SCOTUSBlog here.