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24 Vt. L. Rev. 1 (1999-2000)
The Death Penalty for Drug Kingpins: Constitutional and International Implications

handle is hein.journals/vlr24 and id is 11 raw text is: THE DEATH PENALTY FOR DRUG KINGPINS:
Eric Pinkard
In 1994 Congress enacted the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA) with
provisions permitting the imposition of the death penalty on Drug Kingpins.'
The FDPA is unprecedented in American legal history in that the death
penalty can be imposed in cases where the Drug Kingpin does not take a
human life.2 To qualify for the death penalty under the act, a Drug Kingpin
has to have directed a continuing criminal enterprise involving either large
quantities of controlled substances or 20 million dollars in gross receipts from
the enterprise over a one year period The specific controlled substances
enumerated in the act are very large quantities or mixtures of heroin, cocaine,
ecgoine, phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana,
or methamphetamine.4
*   Practitioner with Capital Collateral Regional Council, Tampa, Florida; LL.M. 1999, Stetson
University School of Law; J.D. 1987, Florida State University College of Law.
1. Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591-3597 (1994).
2. See generally Neil C. Schur, Assessing the Constitutionality and Policy Implication of the
1994 Drug Kingpin Death Penalty, 2 TEX. F. ON Civ. LIBERTIES & Civ. RTs. 141 (1996) (providing
extensive history of the FDPA); 137 CONG. REC. S8497 (1991) (statement of Senator Biden about the
validity of new extension of the death penalty to drug kingpins who do not murder); 140 CONG. REC. S4187
(1994) (statement of Senator Hatch on the new provision of the Drug Kingpin bill extending the death
penalty for the first time to certain cases where death does not directly result from the activities of the Drug
3. 18 U.S.C. § 3591(b) provides:
a defendant who has been found guilty of (1) an offense referred to in section
408(c)(1) of the Controlled Substance Act (21 U.S.C. § 848(c)(1)), committed as
part of a continuing criminal enterprise offense under the conditions described in
subsection (b) of that section which involved not less than twice the quantity of
controlled substance described in subsection (b)(2)(A) or twice the gross receipts
described in subsection (b)(2)(B) . . . shall be sentenced to death if, after
consideration of the factors set forth in section 3592 in the course of a hearing held
pursuant to section 3593, it is determined that imposition of a sentence of death is
justified, except that no person may be sentenced to death who was less than 18
years of age at the time of the offense.
Continuing criminal enterprise is described in The Controlled Substance Act, 21 U.S.C. § 848(c) (1988)
as violations: (A) which are undertaken by such person in concert with five or more other persons with
respect to whom such person occupies a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position
of management and (B) from which such person obtains substantial income or resources. Id
4. See 18 U.S.C. § 3591(b). This part requires twice the controlled substances referred to in 21
U.S.C. § 848(b)(2)(A), which in turn refers to 300 times the amount of controlled substances listed in 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(l)(B), which lists the following controlled substances and amounts (these amounts are
multiplied by four to arrive at the threshold quantities, for example 400 grams of heroin):
(i) 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of

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