Showing posts with label Derek Harris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Derek Harris. Show all posts

Veteran Sentenced to Life in Prison for Possessing $30 Worth of Marijuana Will Be Released


Derek Harris is a decorated soldier who gave his life for his nation during Operation Desert Storm. His years of devotion to his nation were meaningless to the state, which sentenced him to life in prison for selling less than a gram of marijuana to an undercover policeman. After more than a decade in prison, Harris has finally received some good news as the drug war draws to an end.

Harris was resentenced to time served and will be freed shortly, according to his counsel. Prosecutors in Vermilion Parish decided to release Harris from jail after a fresh hearing granted by the Louisiana Supreme Court last month, according to FOX 59. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: Exorbitant bail shall not be needed, excessive fines must not be levied, and cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted. At the PBWW website, we believe that life in prison without the possibility of release for drug trafficking is unjustifiable. Not only is 69 grams of a plant excessive, but it is also very cruel. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, but Harris' horror will soon come to an end.

Harris' ordeal started in 2008 when an undercover policeman came to his home and inquired about purchasing marijuana. Harris sold.69 grams of marijuana — hardly enough to roll two joints — for $30. He was then arrested, abducted, and put in a cage by police. In 2012, Judge Durwood Conque of the 15th Judicial District convicted Harris guilty of marijuana distribution. A prosecutor for Vermilion Parish used the state's chronic offender statute, and Conque sentenced Harris to life in prison as a four-time loser.

Harris has been battling mental illness since his return from Iraq. This led him down a road of addiction, which he maintained by selling narcotics and stealing minor things. On the other hand, Harris never intended to harm anybody and all of his offenses were misdemeanors. According to court documents, Harris' previous convictions stretch all the way back to 1991 for cocaine trafficking. He was then convicted of simple robbery in 1992 and 1993, simple burglary in 1997, and theft under $500 in 2005, according to Cormac Boyle, a Promise of Justice Initiative attorney who argued Harris' case Monday. Boyle said that sufficient evidence indicates that his rap record is the result of a battle with mental illness related to his military service, not a propensity for crime. However, that mitigating evidence was never presented, and Conque sentenced Harris to life in prison without the possibility of release under a chronic offender statute that allows prosecutors wide discretion.

“Courts have an obligation to ensure that the penalty is proportionate to the offense. That did not occur here,” Boyle said during the first assessment. “This court has consistently maintained the authority to declare a punishment excessive.”

“His previous crimes were mild and linked to his untreated drug addiction,” Justice John Weimer of the Louisiana Supreme Court said in his decision.

Prosecutors said that if Harris' sentence is reversed, it would reintroduce dangerous offenders to the streets. However, this is not true. This habitual offender law is the primary reason Louisiana has become the world's capital of prison.

“These extremely lengthy and excessive sentences are virtually impossible to appeal once imposed, and as a result, we have a disproportionate number of people serving life without parole and a disproportionate number of people in prison,” Mercedes Montagnes, Executive Director of the Promise of Justice Initiative, explains.

“Mandatory life sentence for possession of the tiniest quantity of marijuana. Is this a violation of the Eighth Amendment? Is it exorbitant? That is precisely what we are discussing,” Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said.

Not only are life sentences for marijuana use excessive. Any time someone's liberty is taken away or they are extorted by the government for having or using this plant, it is cruel and excessive, but it is a function of this whole system.

“Americans should be angry that police departments throughout the nation continue to squander taxpayer money and scarce law enforcement resources arresting otherwise law-abiding people for simple marijuana possession,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. We concur.

In Anambra, three people were killed as they clashed with the police.

  Over the weekend, the situation in the Aguleri village, which is located in the Anambra East Local Government Area of the state of Anambra...