A military veteran who was sentenced to life in prison for selling less than $30 worth of marijuana is finally being freed. Derek Harris was arrested in Louisiana in 2008 after he sold an officer .69 grams of marijuana and was initially convicted and sentenced to 15 years behind bars, CNN reports. However, under the Habitual Offender Law, he was resentenced in 2012 to life in prison. Thankfully, he was recently resentenced again to time served and after nine years, he’s finally getting out.
After nearly a decade in prison for a #marijuana sale, Derek Harris has been freed https://t.co/iHRhCRlIk2 pic.twitter.com/JD1tWL7l15
— Spliff Seeds ® (@spliffseeds) August 19, 2020
- Harris was granted a new hearing by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Harris’s lawyer Cormac Boyle said that prosecutors in Vermilion Parish finally agreed to release his client at the hearing.
- He never had a fair trial to begin with. The Louisiana Supreme Court seemingly agreed with Harris’s claim that he had an “ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review” during his initial trial. From there, his case went back to the trial court for an evidentiary writ.
- Harris was entitled to a far lesser sentence. The District Attorney’s office decided that Harris was also correct in arguing that he “received ineffective assistance at sentencing and was entitled to a lesser sentence.”
- Harris dealt with substance abuse issues after returning from military service. He returned from Desert Storm in 1990 and developed issues with drugs. He was convicted of a few nonviolent offenses which Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer wrote were “related to his untreated dependency on drugs.”
- There’s no legal basis for keeping Harris behind bars. Weimer insisted that since Harris is “not a drug kingpin” or even a drug dealer in the classical sense, he had every right to be resentenced and ultimately released. Sadly, nine years of his life were lost in this ordeal, but hopefully he’ll get a chance to build a new life now that he’s out.