Thursday, November 24, 2011

Free Clarence Aaron !

Today, the San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders makes her annual plea for mercy, on behalf of Clarence Aaron. In a sense, Aaron's case is always relevant, and is certainly well known (See Frontline documentary here, or see Fox News report here). But, with the first granting of a commutation of sentence by President Obama, those who are informed on such matters must once again wonder ... "Is it finally going to happen? Is Aaron going to be set free?"

Throw in the fact that President Obama finally "got serious" by commuted the sentence of Eugenia Jennings, and, well, it is hard not to think positive. Jennings, a mother of three, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for selling "13.9 grams of crack cocaine - about the size of six sugar packets - to a confidential police informant." A federal judge was required, however, "to boost her prison time" because Jennings (a drug addict) "had been prosecuted twice previously for dealing small amounts of crack." Saunders notes:
I have an even worse criminal-justice horror story. In 1993, Clarence Aaron received three sentences of life without parole as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. Aaron broke the law and earned time in prison. But he received a longer sentence because he didn't know enough to turn on the bosses behind two large cocaine deals. He foolishly pleaded not guilty and lied under oath. Because the buyer had planned to convert the powder cocaine into crack, his sentence was extended

... Aaron has taken responsibility for the actions that put him in prison. He has a good prison record, and he's ready to start leading a normal life among a supportive and anxious family

... Besides, it is obscene that a young African American man will spend the rest of his natural life in prison for a nonviolent, first-time offense committed when he was 23 years old.Next month, Aaron will have spent 18 years in prison. As his commutation application notes, Aaron shows promise to be a law-abiding citizen, but he "continues to serve his life sentences, while all those who testified against him are now out of jail."
Saunders observes that Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums believes President Obama should be "bold" and "unafraid" to do more. Such cases do not involve "political scandal." They merely involve the business of "doing justice."

We agree. See full Saunders editorial here.

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