In a vote that received little notice last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would help white collar criminals and raise the burden of proof in a range of white collar crimes by default.
“It would end up meaning that some criminals would go free as a result, because we simply would not be able to meet that standard of proof,” Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates told NPR in an interview. “If this proposal were to pass, it would provide cover for top-level executives, which is not something we think would be in the best interest of the American people.“
The White House had a more direct response, accusing Congress of unbalancing the scales of justice in favor of the wealthy.
“In the president’s view, criminal-justice reform should only make the system better, not worse,” said a White House statement.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) defended the bill.
“This is a very carefully crafted bill,” Goodlatte said during a committee markup last week. “Its intent is … to protect American citizens who did not know or have reason to know they were violating federal law.”
The Obama Administrations has been trying to overhaul the justice system to reduce drug incarcerations. There are many inmates in American prisons who are serving life sentences for carrying small amounts of marijuana and many of those are poor and from minorities.
From the point of view of the White House, rather than reforming the justice system to help those who are easily targeted by it, the Judiciary Committee are focusing on helping those who already have an advantage.
“As far as I know, and I’ve been a defense lawyer for 34 years, there is no problem of over-incarceration for rich, white financial or environmental executives,” said Jeffery Robinson, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
[NPR] [The Guardian] [ACLU]