Saturday, July 12, 2014

Missouri Pot Tales

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

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.


Xobekim said...

Members of the original cartel were apprehended with fourteen bricks of marijuana. Law enforcement did set up a sting to arrest members of the local drug ring which intended distribute the marijuana by placing a passenger of the car, Jorge Ibuado, in a motel room. Law enforcement occupied the two adjoining rooms.
Mizanskey scouted the parking lot of a motel, found the vehicle belonging to the cartel, left, returned with another man, parked his car close to the entrance of the motel. The two men went to the Ibuado's room. Mizanskey's accomplice, Atilano Quintana, and Ibuado spoke in Spanish. Ibuado spoke to Mizanskey in English.
Mizanskey took an active part in the negotiations with Reyes. Mizanskey said another person had $10,000 with which to purchase the fourteen bricks of marijuana. Mizanskey made an unsuccessful attempt to telephone the person with the money. Mizanskey lifted the brick used as a sample and guestimated its weight.
From the transcript of the case : "Quintana then told Mizanskey that they should see if "we can unload this real quick. And then we'll ... The car will be okay there until we are ready to unload." Mizanskey responded "that will work." As Mizanskey and Quintana prepared to leave the room, Mizanskey asked Quintana if he wanted to put "the baby" in his jacket. Quintana instead tucked the package under his own coat. Mizanskey then offered to walk beside Quintana as they left."
When apprehended Jerry Mizanskey had three baggies on him. One of the clear plastic bags contained about two grams of marijuana and the other two contained the residue of methamphetamine.
Jerry Mizanskey was no low level pot possessor. He may have been a dupe in as much as the two Spanish speakers may have had him admit to what appears to be a primary involvement in the crime. There was a surveillance camera and a tape recorder set up to capture evidence. That evidence needs to be reviewed by a Spanish speaking person, with the conversation between Quintana, and Ibuado translated into English.
Arguing error to the Governor who was the Attorney General at the time of the appeal is a fool's errand. The procedure for obtaining a pardon begins with filing an application with the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole for investigation. This investigation can consider facts otherwise not admissible at trial.

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Twenty-one years is plenty for any non-violent drug crime. Governor Nixon needs to act.