He Got Life for Selling $30 of Weed. Now, This

Derek Harris, a military veteran, is about to go free
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 9, 2020 4:20 PM CDT
He Got Life for Selling $30 of Weed. Now, This
Derek Harris.   (YouTube)

A Louisiana man serving life for selling less than a gram of weed is about to see the light of day, CNN reports. Prosecutors have agreed to free Derek Harris, a military veteran who was arrested in 2008 for selling an officer less than $30 of marijuana. In a Louisiana Supreme Court hearing last month, Harris argued that his legal team fumbled the case by not challenging his sentence. Seems his original lawyer had failed to tell the judge, Durwood Conque, that he was obligated to hand down a shorter sentence if the mandatory minimum "shocks the conscience," per the Times-Picayune.

But at the time, Conque said he felt compelled to sentence Harris to life under the state's habitual offender rule—which took into account the man's prior convictions of drug-dealing, distribution, robbery, and burglary. "His prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs," Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer wrote in his opinion to free Harris, adding that he was "not a drug kingpin." Harris' lawyer added that his client suffered from a substance abuse problem after serving in Operating Desert Storm. Harris says he wants to resettle near his family in Kentucky and reconnect with his brother, Antoine. (A man who got life for stealing hedge clippers isn't so lucky.)

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