In a highly unusual move, a nine-judge panel of district judges from around the 7th Circuit is hearing arguments on whether certain drug sting operations run since the 90s by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were racially discriminatory.
In the federal justice system, most criminal sentences are determined by formulas in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are determined by an agency called the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
When a crime scene sample has evidence of more than one individual crime labs attempt to assign the results to particular individuals. When there are DNA alleles from only two people the process is usually straightforward -- there is a "major contributor" and "minor contributor" identified. The problem becomes more complicated if there is evidence of DNA from three or more persons in the mixture. Until recently, many labs reported results as "inconclusive" because separating the mixture of DNA was too subjective. Then several software companies developed algorithms that could assign the DNA profiles to particular individuals by using statistical probabilities. This method of "probablistic genotyping" has been controversial among scientists in the field and forced courts to confront much new evidence.
In many ways, news that disparities exist in the U.S. criminal justice system based on race evoke thoughts of Captain Renault, Claude Rains' character in "Casablanca," shutting down Rick's Café and exclaiming, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"
If you end up being convicted of a crime, there's a fair chance that part of your sentence will involve probation. Probation allows you to be released into the community instead of serving all of your sentence in jail -- but you must meet certain conditions. If you fail to meet any of the conditions, your probation could be extended or revoked.