Sunday, December 2, 2012

Florida: War on Drugs?

USA Today is reporting on the case of one Michael Edwards, who was charged with selling $850 worth of cocaine to his girlfriend. Edwards passed up a plea bargain of 15 years - thinking she would not testify against him, indeed, she had signed an affidavit saying another man had sold her the drugs - went to trial and a 60-year sentence in exchange. At the time, Edwards was 31 years old. That was 18 years ago. His release date is 2044 (when he will be 81 years old).

Edwards' record was "smeared with convictions" but:
He wants the world to see who he is now: a Christian who has read the Bible cover to cover three times, a father who talks about the stock market with his adult son and a model prisoner with a file full of ideas: a mentoring network for children, jingles for the pool and spa business he hopes to run with his sister, and a product to sell downloadable engine sounds for electric cars ... Since October 1999, he has not received a disciplinary action. He has attended Bible studies and more than 20 educational and substance abuse programs. After Edwards earned above-satisfactory ratings for behavior, his classification officer wrote a letter recommending his release. "Inmate Edwards has shown himself to be a peaceful, outgoing, exemplary person who has overcome his drug addiction and is ready to re-enter society as a law-abiding citizen," wrote T. Smith, of South Bay Correctional Facility.
A former State Attorney says Edwards "has served way more time than the crime" and concludes that Edwards has "changed." USA Today notes:
The same month Edwards was sentenced, another Fort Myers man was sent away for 20 years after shooting his son-in-law seven times and killing him outside a bar. 
Edwards requested clemency in 2002 and in 2011. In 2006, Edwards managed get a resentencing  hearing before a judge. Later, an order said the Court was "sympathetic"but "unconvinced" that it had the power to "consider granting the relief." As for clemency, in Florida:
His chances are slim. Five applications to reduce prison sentences were granted in 2010, two in 2009, according to the parole commission. In the past two years, the commission has received almost 1,440 such applications. 
See complete story here.

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