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Friday, January 8, 1999

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  • Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s Gold Stripes

    Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist started to wear gold braids on his robes five years ago in emulation of the lead character in the Gilbert and Sullivan play, "Iolanthe." At the beginning of the play it is revealed that the Lord, head of the British judiciary, had an affair 25 years ago and that he fathered a love child who is half-mortal and half-fairy. The play is a satire of the duality between the public roles of politicians and their private lives and desires.

  • Snitches and Mandatory Sentencing

    In the past five years, nearly one third of defendants in federal drug trafficking cases have received reduced sentences because they cooperated with prosecutors: they snitched. Since the passing of strict federal anti-drug legislation, informants, or snitches, have become key players in drug prosecutions, a practice that was originally intended to help prosecutors catch drug kingpins, but more and more, has yielded opposite results. Snitches can usually only name people who occupy the lower positions in the drug-dealing world, and so our prisons are filled with small-time offenders serving extended sentences. Alarmingly, the word of a snitch is weighed as heavily as physical evidence in court. People can be convicted of drug charges solely on the word of snitches, without any substantiating physical evidence.