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

Mark Osler is a Professor of Law at the University of St, Thomas Law School in Minnesota. A graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School, Prof. Osler is a former federal prosecutor whose work has consistently confronted the problem of inflexibility in sentencing and corrections.

As lead counsel he won the case of Spears v. United States (2009) in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court held that sentencing judges can categorically reject the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. Justice Stevens (in dissent) also quoted Prof. Osler in the seminal case of United States v. Booker (2005), which struck down the mandatory guidelines. As an appellate attorney, Osler has briefed or argued cases (often as Amicus for other sentencing experts) in six federal courts of appeal and in the United States Supreme Court, and as a sentencing expert he has testified in Congress (2009) and before the U.S. Sentencing Commission (2004).

He serves as the head of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and often lectures on issues relating to sentencing, ethics, and faith and the law. His work on one case is portrayed in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet, where the character of Prof. Joe Fischer is based on Osler’s role in working with a former student to address suspect practices by a District Attorney. His book, Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon, 2009) challenges the death penalty based on the experience of Christ as a criminal defendant. He has also authored over twenty academic articles and has been interviewed as a sentencing or Supreme Court expert on CNN, NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC’s Good Morning America, and in hundreds of newspapers. In 2009 (while serving as a professor at Baylor University) he was named “Wacoan of the Year” by Wacoan Magazine. 

In 2014, Osler was the subject of an expansive profile in The American Prospect titled "The Quality of Mercy," which detailed his life and work as one of the nation's most effective advocates for criminal justice reform.

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

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Prosecuting Jesus in Pasadena"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

CNN Online - "Trayvon Martin case also about guns"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Program to be modeled after School of Law Commutations Clinic

View Publication

Osler's Razor

View Publication

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

View Publication

Dallas News - "Obama's Mercy Dearth"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Pardon people, not turkeys"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Minneapolis Star Tribune - "Americans' thirst for revenge"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Christianity Without Arrogance"

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Guns and Kittens"

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Chaos and the Cheerleader"

View Publication

The Boston Globe - "The Untapped Power of Pardons"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Boulder Daily Camera - "Death and Christ"

View Publication

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

View Publication

ABP News - "Jesus faces mock trial in Texas"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

MSNBC - "Sentence the Boston bomber to meaninglessness"

View Publication

Sojourners - "What We Find On Higher Ground"

View Publication

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

View Publication

ESPN - "OTL: Griner And Baylor"

View Publication

MSNBC - "The best reason to stop using drones"

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Our Dangerously Safe Jesus"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "The God of Summer"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffintgon Post - "Five Ways Jesus Was a Millennial"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Letters from Prison"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Christians and Mass Incarceration"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Harvard Law School - "Generations Behind Bars"

View Publication

Huffington Post - "The Christians by the Grocery Store"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

The Takeaway - "Obama Commutes Sentences of Eight Inmates"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Obama's Opening to Mercy"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

MSNBC - "Only half-way there on mercy"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Bigotry or Belief? A Test"

View Publication

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

View Publication

The American Prospect - "The Quality of Mercy"

View Publication

National Geographic - "The Jesus Mysteries"

View Publication

Manchaca United Methodist Church - "The Trial of Jesus"

View Publication

NYU Law - "Mercy in the Criminal Justice System"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Four Spiritual Opportunities of Facebook"

View Publication

The Detroit News - "Mitt Romney for drug czar"

View Publication

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

View Publication

Waco Tribune - "Mixing Christian compassion with the law"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Huffington Post - "Faith for In-Between Times"

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

Scholarship

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

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

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

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

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

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

View Publication

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). 

View Publication

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).

Brian Serr & Mark Osler, Criminal Procedure, 34 Tex. Tech 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).

View Publication

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

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

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

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).

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

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

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

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

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

View Publication

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).

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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

View Publication

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). 

View Publication

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

View Publication

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).

View Publication

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. 

View Publication

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). 

View Publication

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).