Allen Russell: Marijuana Life Sentence Conviction Upheld In Miss.
UPDATED: 5:45 p.m. June 22, 2022
Initially revealed: Could 14, 2021
ABlack man serving life in jail stemming from a marijuana conviction had his sentence upheld final week by Mississippi‘s prime court docket in a ruling that needed to do extra together with his legal previous than the crime for which he was imprisoned.
Final Thursday, “the Mississippi Supreme Courtroom dominated that Allen Russell’s life sentence was not a violation of the Eighth Modification and was in keeping with state statute,” the native information outlet KPLC reported. The ruling eliminates the potential of parole for Russell.
It was the newest signal that the failed conflict on medication continues to be going sturdy amid a rising legalization motion that has made leisure use of the drug permittable in an rising variety of states.
The state’s Supreme Courtroom determination about Russell got here greater than a yr after the Mississippi Courtroom of Appeals denied Russell’s attraction partly as a result of he’s a “ordinary offender,” a classification that eliminates any judicial discretion and ensures harsher sentences for individuals who have beforehand been convicted a number of occasions — even when the latest offense is nonviolent.
Much like the infamous, so-called “three strikes” legal guidelines sprinkled across the nation, “ordinary offender” legal guidelines have been extensively criticized by folks working towards reforming the legal justice reform.
In Russell’s case, he was discovered responsible in 2019 of being in possession of greater than 30 grams of marijuana, which is barely greater than 2.5 ounces. That was after he had beforehand been individually convicted of two dwelling housebreaking prices and illegal possession of a firearm, spending greater than a decade behind bars in complete.
One of many judges who dissented within the appeals court docket ruling is a Black girl who wrote in her opinion that the choice to uphold Russell’s life sentence undermines the true responsibility of the court docket.
“The aim of the legal justice system is to punish those that break the regulation, deter them from making comparable errors, and provides them the chance to change into productive members of society,” Mississippi Courtroom of Appeals Decide Latrice Westbrooks wrote in her dissenting opinion. “The truth that judges usually are not routinely given the power to train discretion in sentencing all ordinary offenders is totally at odds with this objective.”
The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reported in 2020 that there have been 86 “ordinary offenders” serving life with out parole due to convictions for nonviolent crimes, like Russell.
These sorts of convictions, critics say, result in the legal justice system being backlogged with instances and a jail system that continues to expertise overcrowding endlessly.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed comparable sentiments up to now about “ordinary offender” legal guidelines in different states.
“America is the world’s largest incarcerator, however our habit to incarceration is doing little to make People safer,” Rachel Myers wrote for the ACLU in 2011 with almost prophetic phrases that also resonate at present. “Particularly within the face of financial disaster, our authorities ought to put money into options to incarceration and make prisons choices of final — not first — resort.”
Derek Harris is aware of that reality first-hand. The Louisiana man was given life in jail for lower than $30 of marijuana and served an almost decade behind bars earlier than he was launched because of time served.
Harris, a navy veteran, was arrested again in 2008 in Abbeville, Louisiana, after promoting .69 grams of marijuana to an officer. At first, he was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in jail. Nevertheless, in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in jail underneath the Recurring Offender Regulation, which permits judges to provide up to date sentences to those that have earlier convictions on their report.
“Louisiana’s ordinary offender regulation is abused, misused and ineffective,” Jamila Johnson, a senior supervising lawyer for the Southern Poverty Regulation Heart Motion Fund, defined in 2019.
“Individuals affected by habit, psychological sickness, and poverty can discover themselves in jail for many years for one thing as minor as stealing $14.”
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