Supreme Court rules for inmates seeking reduced prison terms

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court on Monday made it easier for certain prison inmates to seek reduced sentences under a 2018 bipartisan federal law aimed at reducing racial disparities in prison sentences for cocaine crimes.
The judges ruled 5-4 that trial judges asked to sentence inmates can consider a variety of factors, including some unrelated to crack cocaine offenses that have resulted in lengthy prison sentences, which for People of Color is disproportionate.
The Supreme Court has settled a disagreement between the country's appellate courts over what judges should do in these cases.
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The case before the judges involved Carlos Concepcion, who is serving a 19-year sentence after pleading guilty to distributing at least five grams of crack cocaine with intent.
But the length of Concepcion's sentence was really determined by previous state court convictions that made him a career offender under federal law.
In 2019, Concepcion requested a reduced sentence under the First Step Act that President Donald Trump signed into law a year earlier. Concepcion argued that the law made him eligible for a shorter term, but also cited his previous convictions, one of which had been overturned and others no longer counted as violent crimes following interim Supreme Court decisions.
Still, the judge refused to consider any changes to his verdict.
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"The District Court in this case refused to consider petitioner Carlos Concepcion's arguments that intervening changes in law and changes in fact supported his application, mistakenly believing that it lacked the discretion to do so," Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her opinion for the court.
She was joined by an unusual group of judges, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.

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