Thanks to a student Innocence Project group at the University of Missouri, I learned about the plight of Joseph Amrine, an innocent man on death row, while I was in law school. I was proud to help join a coalition of advocates, including political strange bedfellows such as Mizzou’s law school ACLU and Christian Legal Society chapters, to help fight for Amrine’s release. It was one of my life’s great honors to sit next to attorney Sean O’Brien as he successfully argued for Joe’s release before the Missouri Supreme Court. The Innocence Project has done amazing work across the nation, and I was so happy to see that they just helped release Fate Winslow, who had been sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON in Louisiana for selling $20 worth of cannabis while he was hungry and homeless.
Winslow was approached by undercover officers in Shreveport in 2008, and they asked him where they could get some marijuana. Winslow borrowed a bike, went and found some marijuana and came back to give it to the officers who then gave him $5 so he could buy some food, according to his attorneys at the Innocence Project New Orleans.
Winslow had already been convicted of three previous non-violent crimes stretching from when he was a 17-year-old to when he was 36, making him susceptible to the state’s repeat offender law.
The Innocence Project New Orleans took up his case, appealing his life sentence on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. He was eventually re-sentenced to time served. The director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, Jee Park, said Winslow received an “obscenely excessive sentence given his life circumstances and crime, and today, we are correcting that unconstitutional, inhumane sentence.”
It is such a shame that Mr. Winslow had to suffer through 12 years of prison before he was released. This case is a great reminder that while folks in Oregon, and other legal states, enjoy (mostly) sensible criminal cannabis laws, there are still too many people that are harmed by the failed and harmful war on the cannabis community. On the positive side, this case shows how dedicated people fighting the good fight can make a positive impact in people’s lives. Let’s support all of the great advocates such as the Innocence Project and the Last Prisoner Project who are working hard to free nonviolent, innocent people from prison.