Copyright (c) 2010 Fordham Law Review
Fordham Law Review
NOTES: GETTING A FIX ON COCAINE SENTENCING POLICY: REFORMING THE SENTENCING SCHEME OF THE ANTI-DRUG ABUSE ACT OF 1986
Fordham Law Review
78 Fordham L. Rev. 2531
Alyssa L. Beaver*
In conjunction with the War on Drugs, launched in the early 1980s, federal and state attorneys devoted more resources to prosecutions of illegal drug dealers and users. 1 At that time, jurors' knowledge of drug-related issues was minimal and the average juror could not grasp the facts of a particular case or the applicable law; thus, it was difficult for prosecutors to secure convictions. 2 To ameliorate the problem of uninformed jurors, the government relied on expert witnesses to explain the chemical properties of drugs and the dangers associated with their use. 3
Prosecutors in Washington D.C. lionized Johnny St. Valentine Brown, Jr., a police investigator who had emerged as the "resident narcotics expert" of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. 4 Brown, a flamboyant witness who brought theater to the courtroom, made the vernacular of illegal narcotics accessible for the average juror. He translated chemical formulas into street names of drugs, explained how drugs were used, and detailed the manner in which drugs were sold. 5 At the outset of his testimony, Brown declared his credentials, which purportedly included a doctorate in pharmacology from Howard University and board certification in pharmacology. 6 By 1983, Brown had served as an integral witness in over one thousand narcotics cases, testifying at as many as five trials per day. 7
Based on his strong reputation among D.C. prosecutors, Congress called on Brown for advice during the drafting of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (the Act or 1986 ...
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