Missouri has a long history of dropping the judicial hammer on marijuana offenders. Murderers? Not so much.
Back in the summer of 1976 there was a case here in West Plains, Missouri, that generated a lot of national interest. A local circuit judge, Winston Buford, heard the case of a nineteen-year-old college student named Jerry Mitchell who had been caught selling five dollars worth of marijuana (a half-ounce). That case might have brought a small fine or even just a warning in civilized parts of the country, but Judge Buford wanted to set an example to others who might consider selling drugs in his small community. The judge sentenced the college junior to twelve years in prison for his first offense.
Judge Buford later reduced the sentence to a mere seven years in prison after the case began to draw national attention - and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) flew lawyers down to the Ozarks to make a personal appeal to the judge's sense of decency.
(It was noted in the press at the time that Judge Buford had previously sentenced a man to five years in prison for second degree murder. Obviously, the judge had his own priorities.)
Jerry Mitchell was ultimately paroled from prison after serving fourteen months of his sentence.
That was then . . .
In the 1990's a Missourian by the name of Jeff Mizanskey was arrested in a sting-operation when a man he was with purchased some marijuana. The man making the purchase received a ten-year prison sentence, but his ride-along buddy, Jeff, was sentenced to life without parole based on two earlier pot arrests. All of Mizanskey's arrests were for low-level marijuana connections - with no weapons or violence involved in any of the crimes.
Jeff Mizanskey has now served twenty-one years of his life sentence - and he is sixty-one-years-old. His thirty-three-year-old son, Chris, who was twelve at the time his father was sent to prison, is lobbying for his release. A national push is underway to convince our semi-progressive governor, Jay Nixon, to commute Mizankey's sentence to time-served.
The times have changed - drastically - and it is well past time to release Jeff Mizankey from his draconian confinement. It is now legal to buy marijuana in Washington and Colorado for recreational use - without any pretense of "medicinal purposes." Pot has been decriminalized in seventeen states, and two dozen more are considering some types of reform. Clearly, Governor Nixon could free Jeff Mizankey without suffering too much negative political blowback - even in Missouri.
Man-up, Governor Nixon. and let Jeff Mizankey spend his golden years with his family and loved ones. He has definitely paid for his crimes - and then some! A pardon could not hurt your image - or the state's.