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‘Thousands’ Of Inmates Denied Shorter Sentences Following Supreme Court Ruling

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against a convicted drug dealer in a case that had implications for thousands of federal prisoners seeking shorter sentences.

In a rare ideological split of 6-3, justices ruled that Mark Pulsifer, who admitted guilt to distributing methamphetamines in 2020, did not qualify under a provision of the First Step Act, a substantial sentencing reform law, NBC News reported.

The question at hand revolved around whether Pulsifer should face a mandatory 15-year sentence or be eligible for a “safety valve” provision. The provision outlines conditions under which a lesser sentence could be applied to nonviolent, low-level drug offenders, according to the outlet.

In a decision authored by liberal Justice Elena Kagan, the court concluded that Pulsifer failed to fulfill the requisite criteria. She was supported in the majority by five of the court’s six conservative justices.

The passage outlines a series of guidelines for imposing sentences lower than the mandatory minimums. The court concluded that Pulsifer must fulfill all the requirements and rejected his argument that meeting some of them would be enough to provide relief. According to the source, the verdict was partly based on how the court interpreted the word “and.”

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Congress “did not extend safety-valve relief to all defendants, but only to some,” Kagan wrote. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented, joined by the two remaining liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Gorsuch claimed that the high court substantially limited the objective of the First Step Act.

“Adopting the government’s preferred interpretation guarantees that thousands more people in the federal justice system will be denied a chance — just a chance — at an individualized sentence. For them, the First Step Act offers no hope.”

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The Supreme Court had a significant week, hearing various cases related to the First Amendment.

During one of the cases about government censorship, Brown Jackson made remarks that caused a viral backlash when she suggested that government collusion with social media companies could be justified.

Her comments came as the court deliberated on the case of Murthy v. Missouri, which contested the Biden administration’s purported collusion with large digital companies to filter specific messages.

The lawsuit was based on claims made by Republican-led states Missouri and Louisiana that senior government officials had collaborated with social media platforms “under the guise of combating misinformation,” which ultimately resulted in speech restrictions on subjects like Hunter Biden’s laptop, the origins of COVID-19, and the effectiveness of face masks.

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During an episode of “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, a Fox News contributor and constitutional scholar, expressed his concern over Justice Jackson’s “chilling” comments.

“There are indeed important First Amendment cases here. As someone associated with the free speech community, we’re all on edge. It was chilling in the social media case to hear justices like Jackson repeatedly say, what’s the problem with the government coercing speech? Why shouldn’t they, when there are really troubling periods … like in the pandemic,” Turley began.

“And many of us were really sort of agape at that, because much of what the government did on censorship was wrong. Many things that they were censoring, by scientists who were fired and disciplined and barred from social media, in some cases,” he said.

Turley continued,” They were vindicated, ultimately, on things like the origin of the virus [in a Chinese lab], showing that it’s not just a possibility, many consider it the leading possibility. Closing of schools. They were vindicated on many of those things. And yet you had Jackson saying, I don’t see why the government can’t coerce social media. So we’re all very concerned where the government will land there.”

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