You Won't Believe Why These 3 People Were Sentenced to Life

Release Date
June 24, 2014


Criminal Justice Justice

A single mother addicted to drugs. A man so desperate to pay for medical treatment that he tried unsuccessfully to sell methamphetamines. A guy busted for selling LSD and another who got in trouble for selling marijuana.  One thing all four of these victims of the drug war have in common is that they’ve been sentenced to spend many years in jail, regardless of whether the judges of their cases even wanted that outcome. Listen to Alex Kreit, professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, explain why people like these can face jail time more than twice as long as if they’d hijacked an airplane, detonated a bomb in public, or even committed second-degree murder.

Sentenced to DIE behind bars for a nonviolent crime? Read more here.
Sentencing 101 (article): Families Against Mandatory Minimums explains the idea with an example of marijuana prohibition.
Less Time, Less Crime (article): Julie Stewart discusses recent moves to reform mandatory minimums.
Reconsidering Mandatory Minimum Sentences: The Arguments for and Against Potential Reforms (article): Evan Bernick and Paul Larkin discuss the pros and cons in the context of the drug laws.
Rand Paul Is Right About the Injustice of Mandatory Drug Minimums (article): Jacob Sullum discusses examples of the phenomenon in response to the politician’s plea for reform.

You Won’t Believe Why These 5 People are Locked Up for Life
Stephanie George — twenty-three, single mother, addicted to drugs. She made the mistake of letting her boyfriend store some drugs in her home in a lockbox. She got life without parole.
Dicky Joe Jackson — twenty-seven and a father of three. One of his kids was sick and needed a life-saving bone marrow transplant. At first he tried fundraising money to get it. But he wasn’t successful. So he made the mistake of selling methamphetamine in order to pay for the operation. He received a life sentence for it.
Robert Riley — like so many others, he started experimenting with marijuana at a young age. He got busted twice for it. Later in life, at forty, he was arrested for selling LSD. He was sentenced to die in jail.
In most of these cases, the judges themselves say they wish they didn’t have to impose the sentence. Take the case of Weldon Angelos, a twenty-five-year old record producer. He was convicted of selling marijuana a couple of times to an informant who claimed that he had a gun. He received more than twice as much time as he would have if he had hijacked an airplane, detonated a bomb in public, or even if he was a second-degree murderer.
Weldon Angelos is going to be eighty by the time he gets out of jail. He has kids, Can you believe that? More time than a murderer for selling marijuana? The sentencing judge himself said he thought it was cruel, unjust, and even irrational to give this man that much time. But the law required him to do it.
Stop and think about that. The judges themselves, in court, while they are delivering the sentence, are saying they think it’s unfair. But they’re required to do it by law. Pretty crazy, right?
I’m Alex Kreit, criminal law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. You’re probably asking yourself, how do we get to a place where judges can’t judge? Where nonviolent, low-level drug offenders are getting longer sentences than many rapists and murderers?
The answer is one of the most terrifying aspects of our War on Drugs: mandatory minimum sentencing. Remember those three words.
So here’s how it works. Think about a drug organization. You’ve got the guy at the top, the kingpin, the one making all the money. Maybe he’s a violent guy, a known murderer — the one the laws were supposedly designed to punish. Then you’ve got all the people below him — the drivers, the couriers, a kid who’s selling drugs after school, even the girlfriend of the kingpin, as she takes a couple voicemails, or lets him sell drugs at her house.
Under the law, all of these people are considered conspirators. Now you might think, surely they’ll each receive a different sentence. The kingpin’s going to be punished more than the people below him.
But what I’m saying is, the mandatory sentencing laws treat them all the same. They’re sentenced not based on the role that they played in the offense, but just on the types and quantity of drugs involved. And that right there is just plain wrong. And it needs to end.
And that’s where you come in. Click here to watch my next video. Or click here to get involved in ending one of the craziest of our broken criminal-justice system. There’s no better time than now. The momentum is building.
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So, remember that guy Weldon Angelos? The guy who had the fifty-years for selling marijuana a couple of times? The same day he was sentenced, in the same courtroom, there was somebody else, a defendant who had killed somebody — beaten them to death.
The judge, following the law, gave that person twenty-two years. Twenty-two years for killing somebody versus fifty-five years for selling marijuana a couple of times. This is how mandatory minimums distort the punishment.
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