DePierre v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court)
At the time of petitioner Frantz DePierre’s conviction and sentence, federal law mandated a minimum 10-year sentence for persons convicted of drug offenses involving 50 grams or more of “a mixture or substance … which contains cocaine base,” 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and a minimum 5-year sentence for offenses involving 5 grams or more of the same, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). This case presented the question whether the term “cocaine base” as used in this statute refers generally to cocaine in its chemically basic form or exclusively to what is colloquially known as “crack cocaine.” Resolving a 6-to-5 circuit split, the Supreme Court held that the words “cocaine base” mean all forms of cocaine base, and not just “crack cocaine.” In conjunction with the Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic, we represented the petitioner.