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Of Crime And Punishment

Publication Date: 
November 15, 2007
Stanford Magazine
Christine Foster

The work of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School is profiled in the November/December issue of Stanford Magazine. Executive Director Kara Dansky and Professor Robert Weisberg are featured in the story:

In some cases, particularly drug-related crimes, people are sent to prison for decades. Kara Dansky points to an instance when a judge had to sentence someone to 60 years for possessing a firearm and a relatively small amount of marijuana. The next case on the docket was a second-degree murderer sentenced to 20 years. Stanford Law School will help change that, if Dansky has her way. As executive director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, she also wants to tackle the overrepresentation of racial minorities in the prison system. And she aims to put the work of academics studying criminal justice into the hands of policy makers, so that their decisions can be based on research.

Huddleson Professor of Law Robert Weisberg started the center in 2004 after Blakely v. Washington, a major case related to sentencing guidelines. Blakely established that any fact used to increase a defendant’s sentence has to be found by a jury or admitted to, rather than just determined by a judge. This “bizarre decision” sent shock waves through the criminal justice world, says Weisberg, JD ’79, who has been teaching criminal law classes at Stanford for 27 years...


Dansky, a former public defender, was hired in 2005. Stanford is on somewhat unusual ground, she says. “Very few top-tier schools have centers like ours.” ...

The plan was to enhance the Law School’s offerings in criminal law and justice and provide mentoring to students interested in the field. But the center also has begun to influence state policy makers, particularly on issues surrounding sentencing and race. Capitalizing on the prestige and neutrality of its location at a private university has been key, Weisberg says.