Derek Harris, the military personnel who was caught selling marijuana worth $30 and sentenced to life would be released soon, according to his attorney. Harris was prosecuted in 2008 when he was apprehended selling 0.69 gms of marijuana to another officer in Louisiana. Since then, he has already served close to 9 years out of the 15 years in prison as mandated. Recently he was resentenced to be sent a free man.
Sale of Marijuana- Drug Lord or A Man Dealt a Bad Hand by Fate?
Back in 2008, Derek Harris received 15 years in prison under the Supreme Court of Louisiana. But that was extended in 2012 to a life sentence under the Habitual Offender Law. This allowed judges to levy more severe sentences on hardened criminals. But Cormac Boyle, his attorney, said that prosecutors were willing to set him free after the Supreme Court agreed to a new hearing. Harris and the Supreme Court agreed that there were a few misgivings during the sentencing. The defendant had not been able to receive proper assistance from his counsel- something that entitled him to a lesser sentence.
Justice John Weimar stated that Harris had a problem with substance abuse. It had begun with Operation Desert Storm- the US invasion of Iraq in the mid-1990s- early 2000s. The court records state that Harris’s drug problem was non-violent and unresolved due to a lack of treatment, which pushed him over the edge. He also mentioned that Harris didn’t exactly fit the typeset image of a drug lord, or even a drug dealer. So they could in fact let him go easy. And that was probably the reason why he didn’t have the 30-year life sentence imposed on him.
Harris’s attorney Boyle has spoken to CNN about going to the Louisiana Department of Corrections and overturning the ruling on Derek Harris. This would enable him to get out sooner and move closer to his brother Antoine in Kentucky. He could spend the rest of his life there.
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The Case of The Hedge Clippers
Louisiana Supreme Court has had a history of levying exceedingly harsh punishments for far lesser crimes- one of their decision criticized last month was when they decided to sentence a man to life imprisonment for having stolen hedge clippers.
Convicted in the latter half of the 1990s, Fair Wayne Bryant was accused of one count for burglary. For this, he was sent to prison. His attorney maintained throughout the proceedings that the sentence was exceedingly and unconstitutionally harsh. When he could successfully appeal for a new hearing, the 5 white male judges on the panel upheld the statement. One lone black judge voted against it.
From selling marijuana to stealing hedge clippers, Louisiana Court doesn’t believe in simple punishments that wouldn’t destroy someone’s entire life.
Image credit: The Promise Of Justice Initiative.