Osler, Mark

Mark Osler

Professor

Osler, Mark
(651) 962-4852
(800) 328-6819, Ext. 2-4852

Office Location: MSL 462

J.D. Yale Law School

B.A. College of William and Mary

Professor Mark Osler's work advocates for sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity. In 2013, he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching award by the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
 
In 2014-15, Osler's writing on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy has appeared or will appear in The New York Times and law journals at Harvard, Stanford, Rutgers, Northwestern, Wayne State, DePaul and the University of Chicago. His University of Chicago Law Review article (with Rachel Barkow) was highlighted in a lead editorial in The New York Times, in which the Times' Editorial Board expressly embraced Barkow and Osler's argument for clemency reform.
 
A former federal prosecutor, he played a role in striking down the mandatory 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines by winning the case of Spears v. United States in the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Court ruling that judges could categorically reject that ratio. He has testified as an expert before the United States Sentencing Commission and the United States House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Much of his work has been in collaboration with other academics, commentators and judges, including Tom Ashbrook, Rachel Barkow, Amy Baron-Evans, Judge Mark W. Bennett, Douglas Berman, Jeanne Bishop, Graham Boyd, Judge Avern Cohn, Randall O'Brien, Randy Roberts Potts, Nkechi Taifa and Bill Underwood.
 
Osler's 2009 book Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon Press) critiqued the American death penalty through the lens of Jesus' trial, and led to an improvised performance of that trial that has been conducted in 11 states, with Osler serving as the prosecutor. He serves as the head of the association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and held the Byrd Preaching Chair at St. Martin's-by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in 2012. He has given sermons in five states and for three different denominations. His current work on clemency and mercy is rooted in ideals of the Christian faith. In 2011, he founded the first law school clinic specializing in federal commutations, and he trained hundreds of pro bono lawyers for Clemency Project 2014.
 
The character of Professor Joe Fisher in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet was based on Osler, and in 2014 he was the subject of profiles in Rolling Stone and The American Prospect. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School.

Courses Taught

Number Title Credits
615 Criminal Law 3
780 Criminal Practice 4
783 Sentencing 2
793 Topics 0
931 Interscholastic Moot Court 1
934 Negotiations Competition 1
939 Moot Court Trial 2
950 Supervised Resrch & Writing .5
953 Clinic: Fed. Commutations I 2
954 Clinic: Fed. Commutations II 2

Areas of Academic Expertise:

Sentencing and Corrections

From the article "Grand Ideas: Faculty members describe the best ideas from their scholarship" St. Thomas Lawyer Magazine Fall 2011

My most important idea in scholarship has been the stubborn insistence that the crack/powder cocaine ratio in the federal sentencing guidelines comport with the demands of the Sixth
Amendment. This has led to a series of articles, briefs and lectures that culminated in the Supreme Court win in Spears v. United States, in which I was lead counsel.

Upcoming: I will focus on the death penalty and broader reforms in federal sentencing and commutation practice.

Contributions and mentions in the media

CNN - "My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage"

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Waco Tribune - "Throwing away the key isn’t always just"

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University of Richmond School of Law - "Jesus on Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and the American Capital Punishment System"

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Pioneer Press - "Chavez-Nelson fires public defenders on eve of murder trial"

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Wayne Law Review Symposium - "Sentencing White Collar Defendants: How Much Is Enough?"

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Rolling Stone - "The Nation's Shame: The Injustice of Mandatory Minimums"

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Huffington Post - "Vick, Incognito, Rice, Peterson, and the Power of Symbols"

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Waco Tribune - "Mentor’s reading list to young college student exemplifies very best of Waco"

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Huffington Post - "Faith for In-Between Times"

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New York Times - "It’s Time to Overhaul Clemency"

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Pioneer Press - "In Anarae Schunk killing, prosecutor seeks harsher sentences"

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Al Jazeera America - "Federal defenders potentially excluded from historic clemency drive"

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Waco Tribune - "Mixing Christian compassion with the law"

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Huffington Post - "... And They'll Know We Are Christians When We Sue"

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The Detroit News - "Mitt Romney for drug czar"

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Huffington Post - "Four Spiritual Opportunities of Facebook"

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Pioneer Press - "Law professor seeks justice for offenders like those he put away"

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Yahoo News - "Thousands of prisoners apply for Obama’s drug clemency program"

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Huffington Post - "And Then He Was Gone (A Story Before Pentecost)"

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FOX 9 - "5 teens charged in Woodbury, Minn. girl's sleepover drug overdose"

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University of Chicago Law Review Conference on Criminal Procedure in the Spotlight - "Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal"

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Stanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy Symposium - "Prosecutors as Problem Solvers: Discretion in the War on Drugs"

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In These Times - "Presidential Clemency: Which Presidents Used It Most?"

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The Washington Post - "Yet another ridiculous aspect to drug sentencing"

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Al Jazeera America - "Push to cut a sentences under Obama clemency drive begins"

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FOX - "Botched Execution: Okla. failure reignites capital punishment debate"

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Huffington Post - "Jesus Loves Me, But I'm Not Sure He Likes Me So Much"

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The American Prospect - "Pardon Me, Mr. President?"

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The Washington Post - "President Obama has granted clemency fewer times than any modern president"

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New York Times - "Reviving Clemency, Serving Justice" (second hyperlink)

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Washington Times - "Holder to overhaul clemency guidelines, possibly freeing thousands of inmates"

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National Geographic - "The Jesus Mysteries"

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NYU Law - "Mercy in the Criminal Justice System"

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Manchaca United Methodist Church - "The Trial of Jesus"

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The American Prospect - "The Quality of Mercy"

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Waco Tribune - "Do conservative Christians apply biblical tests equally?"

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Huffington Post - "Bigotry or Belief? A Test"

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William & Mary Law School - "Mass Incarceration, Racial Equity and Crack Cocaine"

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Rutgers Law Review - "When the Law is Guilty: Confronting the Mass Incarceration Crisis in the United States"

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Al Jazeera America - "Life without parole is a walking death"

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NPR On Point - "Packed Prisons And The Call For Sentencing Reform"

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Washington Post - "Efficiency shouldn’t trump effectiveness in drug sentencing"

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Huffington Post - "Narcotic Sentencing's Long Arc and Obama's Year of Action"

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Waco Tribune - "Beating drug trafficking means putting focus on the kingpins"

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Harvard Journal on Legislation Symposium - "Waging the Drug War"

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Tampa Bay Times - "Q&A: Marijuana law, heroin use"

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The American Prospect - "Why Obama Should Take a Cue from Gerald Ford on Crack Pardons"

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MSNBC - "Only half-way there on mercy"

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Detroit News - "Don't rush into juvenile parole reform in Michigan"

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Pioneer Press - "Man charged after 2 ex-girlfriends' sex tapes put on Facebook"

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Huffington Post - "Obama's Opening to Mercy"

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MSNBC - "Obama’s pardons: A good start, but not enough"

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The Takeaway - "Obama Commutes Sentences of Eight Inmates"

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Huffington Post - "The Two-Sphere Problem for (Some) Christian Republicans (and Some Democrats, Too)"

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CNN - "The wrong people decide who goes to prison"

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Waco Tribune - "Obama would do well to follow Gerald Ford’s example of clemency"

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National Journal - "Will Obama Pardon This Man (and Many Like Him) or Just a Turkey?"

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Star Tribune - "Clemency is a task for people and institutions of faith"

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The Times-Picayune - "Death penalty opponents put 'Jesus on Trial'"

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The Detroit News - "Drug policy: Moral crusade or business problem?"

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Huffington Post - "The Christians by the Grocery Store"

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Harvard Law School - "Generations Behind Bars"

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Huffington Post - "Christians and Mass Incarceration"

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Loyola University Bellarmine Forum - "Restoring Justice and Racial and Civil Rights"

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Stanford Law School - "Money, Markets, and Mistakes: The History of Crack"

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MSNBC - "Presumed Guilty: The power of the pardon"

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Caroline Penniman Wohlforth Lecture Series - "Jesus Christ, Defendant"

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MSNBC - "Time to free those who've been jailed too long"

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College of William and Mary Symposium on Pilgrimage Studies - "Advocacy as Pilgrimage, Court as Temple"

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Star Tribune - "Convictions, releases were prolific for Rosemount murder suspect"

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Savannah Law School Justice Carol W. Hunstein Lecture Series - "Mercy, Markets, and Mass Incarceration"

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Pioneer Press - "Burnsville shooting suspect has lengthy criminal record, string of second chances"

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Alaska Public Media - "The American Criminal Justice System through the Lens of the Trial of Jesus"

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Star Tribune - "The new drug war: Go after the cash"

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Huffington Post - "Letters from Prison"

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Waco Tribune - "An act of faith, not a promise of wealth"

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Associated Press - "Chelsea Manning seeks presidential pardon for leaking secrets ‘out of a love for my country'"

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Aljazeera America - "What is the impact of DOJ not challenging state marijuana laws?"

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1680 AM Orlando - "Osler discusses federal drug sentencing reforms"

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Star Tribune: "Why Eric Holder's drug policy changes won't work"

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MSNBC online - "Use the pardon power to realize Holder’s vision"

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Waco Tribune - "Unlike the Finns, some elements of our society take pride in criminality"

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Huffintgon Post - "Five Ways Jesus Was a Millennial"

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Al Jazeera online - "Questions about race and the U.S. justice system"

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Minnesota Public Radio - "Zimmerman case affected the lawyers, too"

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MSNBC - "The speck in Florida’s eye, and the log in DOJ’s"

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Huffington Post - "Trayvon Martin and the soul of a prosecutor"

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Star Tribune - "America's mass incarceration: The hidden costs"

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Huffington Post - "The God of Summer"

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Waco Tribune - "Of politics, money and innocent lives"

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Huffington Post - "Our Dangerously Safe Jesus"

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MSNBC - "The best reason to stop using drones"

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ESPN - "OTL: Griner And Baylor"

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Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Had Chris Kluwe worked at the University of St. Thomas ..."

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New York Times - "We Need Al Capone Drug Laws"

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Sojourners - "What We Find On Higher Ground"

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MSNBC - "Sentence the Boston bomber to meaninglessness"

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MPR, the Daily Circuit - "States abolishing death penalty, despite public support for it"

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MSNBC - "Pop-up federal agencies: Government without bureaucracy"

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ABP News - "Jesus faces mock trial in Texas"

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Boulder Daily Camera - "Death and Christ"

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Austin Statesman - "Drama asks audience to consider Christ, death penalty"

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Dallas Morning News - "Death penalty trial of Jesus making rounds across the country"

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Waco Tribune - "Mock trial of Jesus using current laws raises complex questions"

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The Boston Globe - "The Untapped Power of Pardons"

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Huffington Post - "Chaos and the Cheerleader"

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Huffington Post - "Guns and Kittens"

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Huffington Post - "Christianity Without Arrogance"

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WCCO Television - "Good Question: When Can The President Make Law Without Congress?"

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Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Americans' thirst for revenge"

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Huffington Post - "Newtown: An Indictment of the Ethic of Revenge"

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CNN The Situation Room - "Federal battle over legal marijuana"

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CNN - "My Take: The religious roots of our political gridlock"

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Waco Tribune - "Our leaders this year should eat the turkey, free a prisoner"

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The Washington Times - "Debating the drug war: Crack cocaine sentences should be commuted"

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Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Pardon people, not turkeys"

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Christian Science Monitor - "State laws legalizing marijuana put Obama in a bind: What are his options?"

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CNN - "U.S. should honor states' new pot laws"

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ProPublica - "Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President"

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Huffington Post - "Death, Christ and California's Prop. 34"

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Waco Tribune - "Influence vs power — one of them endures, the other wilts, corrupts"

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CNN Online - "Voters' choice: Less death, more love?"

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Huffington Post - "Prosecuting Jesus in Pasadena"

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Washington Times - "Cutting off cash flow the way to end drug trafficking"

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Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Amendment is wrong way to preserve traditional marriage"

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CNN - "Time to deal on life sentences for kids"

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CNN Online - "Trayvon Martin case also about guns"

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Oklahoman - "Oklahoma City church will host 'Trial of Jesus Christ' dramatization"

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Program to be modeled after School of Law Commutations Clinic

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Osler's Razor

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CNN.com - "Jesus on Trial: What Would a Modern Jury Do?"

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Dallas News - "Obama's Mercy Dearth"

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USA Today - "Convict petitions Obama to reduce crack penalty"

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Huffington Post - "The 5 Scariest Teachings of Jesus Christ"

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Waco Tribune - "One-party rule anywhere guarantees mediocrity, eventual decay"

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The Washington Post - "The president’s idle executive power: pardoning"

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The National Law Journal - "Law Firms Help Push For Pardons"

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Yale Law School - "Mercy: A Christian Value in the Constitution?"

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The Federalist Society Yale Student Chapter - "How to Deal with Judge Crimes"

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Huffington Post - "Tumult and Advent"

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The Washington Post - "Obama commutes prison sentences for eight, pardons 12"

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Books

Mark Osler, Jesus On Death Row: The Trial of Jesus and American Capital Punishment (Abingdon Press, 2009).

Chapters

Mark Osler, Unashamed and Unafraidin The Baptist and Christian Character of Baylor (Donald D. Schmeltekopf et al. eds., 2003).

Articles

"Narcotics Prosecutors as Problem Solvers"

Mark Osler, Narcotics Prosecutors as Problem SolversStanford Journal of Criminal Law and Policy (2014).

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Mark Osler, Roe's Ragged Remnant:Viability, Stan. L. & Pol’y Rev. (forthcoming 2013).

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Mark Osler, A Biblical Value in the Constitution: Mercy, Clemency, Faith, and History, U. St. Thomas L.J. (forthcoming 2013).

Mark Osler, What Would It Look Like If We Cared About Narcotics Trafficking? An Argument to Attack Narcotics Capital Rather than Labor, 15 UDC/DCSL L. Rev. 113 (2011).

Mark Osler, After the Implosion: Trailing-Edge Guidelines for a New Era, 7 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 795 (2010).

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Mark Osler, Seeking Justice Below the Guidelines: Sentencing as an Expression of Natural Law, 8 Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 167 (2010).

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Mark Osler, Policy, Uniformity, Discretion, and Congress’s Sentencing Acid Trip, 2009 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 293 (2009).

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Mark Osler, Aseret Had’varim in Tension: The Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights, 49 J. Church & St. 683 (2007).

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Hon. Jeffrey Manske & Mark Osler, Crazy Eyes: The Discernment of Competence by a Federal Magistrate Judge, 67 La. L. Rev. 751 (2007).

Mark Osler, Christ, Christians, and Capital Punishment, 59 Baylor L. Rev. 1 (2007).

Mark Osler, This Changes Everything: A Call for a Directive, Goal-Oriented Principle to Guide the Discretion of Federal Prosecutors, 39 Val. U. L. Rev. 625 (2005). 

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Mark Osler, The Lawyer’s Humble Walk, 32 Pepp. L. Rev. 483 (2005).

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Mark Osler, Indirect Harms and Proportionality: The Upside-Down World of Federal Sentencing, 74 Miss. L.J. 1 (2005). 

Mark Osler, Must Have Got Lost: Traditional Sentencing Goals, The False Trail of Uniformity of Process, and the Way Back Home, 54 S.C. L. Rev. 649 (2003).

Mark Osler, Capone and Bin Laden: The Failure of Government at the Cusp of War and Crime, 55 Baylor L. Rev. 603 (2003).

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Brian Serr & Mark Osler, Criminal Procedure, 34 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 649 (2003).

Mark Osler, Two Preachers, A Trial Lawyer and Aristotle, 29 Religion & Educ. 78 (2002).

Brian Serr & Mark Osler, Criminal Procedure, 33 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 811 (2002). 

Mark Osler, Shock Incarceration: Hard Realities and Real Possibilities, 55 Fed. Probation 34 (1991). 

"Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal "

Barkow, Rachel E. and Osler, Mark William, Restructuring Clemency: The Cost of Ignoring Clemency and a Plan for Renewal (2014). University of Chicago Law Review, 2014, Forthcoming; U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-28; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper. 

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Short Pieces

Mark Osler, Joseph G. Allegretti, The Lawyer’s Calling: Christian Faith and Legal Practice (1996), 1 J. Christian Legal Thought 25 (2011). 

Mark Osler & Matthew Fass, The Ford Approach and Real Fairness for Crack Convicts, 23  Fed. Sent’g Rep. 228 (2011).

Mark Osler, Jesus on Trial in Texas, 179.3 Christian Ethics Today 18 (2010).

Mark Osler, Intensive Parenting and Banishment as Sentencing: Alternatives for Defendant Parents, 22 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 44 (2009). 

Mark Osler, Texas Juries, Buyer’s Remorse, and Booker’s Fatal Flaw, 22 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 100 (2009). 

Mark Osler, Death to These Guidelines, and a Clean Sheet of Paper, 21 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 7 (2008). 

Mark Osler & DeAnna Toten Beard, Susan Glaspell Goes To Law School: Adventures in Teaching Trifles to Criminal Practice Students, 4 Tex. Theater J. 43 (2008). 

Mark Osler, More Than Numbers: A Proposal for Rational Drug Sentences, 19 Fed. Sent’g Rep.  326 (2007). 

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Mark Osler, Ball in a Cup: The Case for Stability and Patience, 18 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 164 (2006).  

Mark Osler, Uniformity and the Death of Traditional Sentencing Goals in the Age of Feeney, 16  Fed. Sent’g Rep. 253 (2004).

Mark Osler, The Blakely Problem and the 3X Solution, 16 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 344 (2004).

Mark Osler & Douglas A. Berman, Criminal History in Practice: The Practices and Practicalities of Criminal History, 13 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 307 (2001).

Mark Osler & Avern Cohn, The Calculation of Criminal History by AUSAs and Defendants: A Study of Inefficiency in the Eastern District of Michigan, 13 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 327 (2001).