Skip to comments.Two Years for One Joint: New Flash Movie Highlights Injustice
Posted on 09/01/2006 10:15:43 PM PDT by freepatriot32
The Drug Policy Alliance is releasing a powerful flash movie that highlights the plight of 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence, the teen now spending two years in jail for selling one joints worth of marijuana to an undercover cop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
The two-minute movie introduces people to Mitchell Lawrence and the details of his case. The flash asks and then explains how an 18-year-old (he was 17 when arrested) who has never been in trouble before could be sentenced to two years in jail for selling such a minuscule amount of marijuana.
The movie states: "It takes two things: A bad law. And a cruel prosecutor."
Mitchell Lawrence received the two-year jail sentence because he was within 1,000 feet of a school and because the fanatical district attorney of Berkshire County, David Capeless, decided to press school zone charges, which trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.
The movie explains that, contrary to assumptions, the Drug-Free School Zone laws do nothing to protect children and are instead used to fill our prisons with people like Mitchell Lawrence. The flash explains:
98 percent of people arrested in "Drug-Free School Zones" werent selling drugs to children. 95 percent of all sales arent near any schools. Most of those arrested have no idea they are in a so-called school zone. 97 percent of all people arrested in "Drug-Free Zones" are Black or Latino. The movie is being sent out to the Drug Policy Alliances email list of 100,000 subscribers. After people view the flash they are encouraged to support the Mitchell Lawrence family and to help reform the disastrous "Drug-Free School Zone" laws.
Viewers of the movie are asked to show their solidarity with the Lawrence family by signing a letter of support to the family. The Drug Policy Alliance will send a candle on behalf of every person who signs the petition. The community of Berkshire County will be laying out the candles at a vigil this summer on the Court House steps in opposition to the inappropriate and harsh sentence.
Viewers are also asked to become members of the Drug Policy Alliance and help reform the ineffective "Drug-Free School Zone" laws. The Drug Policy Alliance recently commissioned a report authored by the Justice Policy Institute, "Disparity by Design: How drug-free zone laws impact racial disparity - and fail to protect youth." The report received national attention in USA Today, The Washington Post and hundreds of other media outlets across the country.
I guess that area doesn't like drug sales around schools.
I think the main problem with very large "drug free school zones" is the following:
-Drug-Free School Zones (DFSZs) were designed to shove dealers and peddlers away from schools by creating a sentencing disparity between school zones and other zones. Before, when penalties were equal for both zones, dealers could deal anywhere without that kind of disparity. So, we're okay so far.
-But, when you expand DFSZs to the point where they end up covering a large percentage of a city, you again eliminate the disparity. This is because school zones no longer have a sentencing disparity between the schoolgrounds and other areas. Basically, we have upped the overall sentencing penalties, but have also erased the uniqueness of penalties for dealing near schools.
-So, since we erase the difference, dealers have less incentive to avoid schools. After all, if a large amount of land in a city will draw the penalty anyway, may as well "get your money's worth."
So, if we want drug dealers to go out of their way to avoid the areas around schools, we'd need to tighten the definition of school zone, and restore a sentencing disparity.
So the headline is nothing other than a lie of omission.
He was not given 2 years for one joint, but for the applicable conditions of the conviction.
I'd like to be on the Libertarian Ping List, please.
In this case...Mitch was awful stupid...and I'm betting he won't improve any when he is released after two years. He will be back in jail by age 30.
"But Officer, I was only doing 60 mph in a 55 mph zone...Why are you giving me a ticket????"
"Drug-Free School Zones"
I wonder if the sale was made within sight of a sign stating the above. The phrase "within 1000 feet" is a bit vague, does not tell me if he was 999 feet away or standing outside the school doors. Sorry, do the crime do the time. I have no problem at all with drug free zone laws.
2 years is not equivalent to a "ticket".
OTOH, he should have known the risk he was taking with his freedom.
OTOH, he was 18 and many 18 year olds are pretty ignorant...
I was recently in a store. Two women in front of me were trying to buy something on a credit card that had expired last week... "Oh, but that was only a few days ago!" They actually thought the cashier had the ability, willingness, and authority to accept their expired credit card.
It was simply unreal. Unreal.
One more note.
If he was selling Meth I would hang him from the nearest School Flagpole!
(Too many kid's lives are being completely destroyed by meth... pot doesn't worry me as much as the Meth problem does).
('Atlas Shrugged' 1957)
Prosecuting America's sons and daughters for drug use ( and alcohol abuse) is a crime in and of itself. Thank goodness they didn't throw everyone in jail for this in the early and mid 20th century. Many young people run wild early in life and then straighten up with the help of concerned family members. We have taken it out of the realm of something the family needs to address and let tne nanny government take care of it. No one comes forward now to help a family member who falls into this life for fear of having to become involved with the legal ramifications. Likewise, seeking help for your loved one may bring a whole slew of gov't agencies ready and willing to screw with your life.
Personal responsibility and families taking care of their own have gone by the wayside in favor of the VILLAGE concept so endorsed by Hillary Clinton. Instead of addressing family problems within the family they are addressed through government agencies, law enforcement and the police. When was the last time an officer took an errant teen or child home for their parents to address a problem I don't see this anymore. Instead they file charges and put the family into the court system.
My Grandparents had it right. We were TAUGHT not to take our grievances or differences to the authorities. We were TAUGHT to work things out in the family.
Sorry for the rant...
I see too many kids that are being thrown away by their parents for the gov't to deal with.... and I see too many in law enforcement who feel a need to make a bust.
The damage? Even if they grow up and move away from abusing alcohol and drugs, they have a record that brands them always.
Of course they could just be illegal aliens doing the same thing and they would be forgiven.
Sorry... just feeling a bit disgusted over things like this.
And the people dealing pot are dealing meth or have close connections....
I absolutely agree. I'm sick of the war on drugs and the lives and money it is costing.
One joint is not dealing... it's desperation....
Most people in jail are not there for one joint.
The police do not do anything to the crack sellers up the street... and this is an otherwise residential neighborhood.
That shouldn't be the qestion. The question: can someone go to prison for a first time offence for selling a joint?
Dont want to do the time dont do the crime.
I do hope that is a joke.
ok. what's missing? Something like he was a major pusher, and the cops finally caught him, and plea bargained it down? Or that he was suspected in other crimes but they couldn't prove it so they plea bargained it down to selling one joint?
No jury would convict for one joint, so it sounds like a plea bargain...
"No jury would convict for one joint, so it sounds like a plea bargain..."
You are probably right, but that doesn't mean it was a good or fair bargain, or even that it advanced some good public policy. The kid (and his parents, if they were involved) may have been told the maximum penalty possible if they went to trial before a jury, but did not realize how unlikely a conviction would be, so they took a definite fate rather than an indeterminate one. If, as I have imagined the scenario, they voluntarily took a deal, do they then have no cause for complaint? Maybe so. But what about the effect on the rest of us? We have to pay for this kid to be incarcerated for a year or more and then pay for the follow up probabation and parole. If his life is ruined by having been in prison, then that will cost us still more (in public money spent and his productivity lost). It's easy to say that he shouldn't have done the crime (and he shouldn't), but shouldn't we balance the costs of incarceration and its aftermath against the damage caused by the crime? If the two get too far out of proportion with each other (which may be the case here), then you have a miscarriage of justice.
At the Taconic Parking lot, Jose asks Mitchell if he has any smoke. Mitchell thought they were going to merely get high. He pulls out a bag with enough marijuana to only smoke one joint, one cigarette.
Jose asked to buy it and Mitchell told him it's not worth a purchase.
He insisted and would pay $20 for it. However, Mitchell wasn't comfortable with this transaction seeing as he was not a drug dealer, but a pot smoker.
Jose tried to get Mitchell to sell him a bag of marijuana, again. This would solidify that Mitchell was indeed a drug dealer or at least in the eyes of the law it would have.
Mitchell wouldn't do it and told him why. He assumed that was the end of it. Until a few months later when he was arrested at his home.
There was a 3 day trial, the judge would not let the jury consider entrapment. Nor, were they aware if they found this 17 year old guilty, that he would be sent directly to prison.
Sounds about right. Get the dirtbags off the streets before they can do serious damage.
no sympathy whatsoever for this fellow. he knew what he was doing.
Those otherwise upright Americans who support the War On Drugs are actually chickensh*t m
I chatted with Mike and watched the court proceedings progress with bad guy after bad guy appearing before the Judge. A stoic Mike had come prepared with his poker faced persona and carefully watched the room while awaiting his turn. One sentencing involved a young man that had participated in felony vandalism and destruction of private property, he and his friends wandered through a Vegas neighbor one night and torched autos parked in driveways resulting in thousands of dollars of losses. He was sentenced to supervised probation and told not to engage in destructive behavior again, no jail time. This guy is out on the street and I'm supposed to sleep well and not worry about my auto bursting into flames?
Mike and I talked about a number of topics including his final hand at the recently completed tournament in Aruba. Mike was in the small blind with a Q-9o and one caller. He completed his blind and the flop comes Q-8-5. Mike bet $120K and the other player raised putting Mike all-in with his call. The other player showed 8-6o for a pair of 8's against mike's pair of Q's. The turn didn't help either player and the river was a 6. Mike was knocked out of the tournament when his pair of Queens was beat by two pair. A three quarter million dollar difference. We discussed some of the details of his troubles and how he got into this trap. Although it's not a simple story, it is one I have had to deal with before when a close family member was caught up in a very similar, well laid trap. Mike was befriended by a friend of a friend more than a year before his arrest. Over the course of the ensuing months they became best friends. His new friend decided one day he needed some coke to impress his 'Mafioso style buddies' and leaned on Mike and his money to provide the drug. Mike found the drugs and when he handed them over he was immediately arrested and offered a deal to walk away if he would finger his source.
Mike refused to do so and was promised he would do some long, hard time. Mike has never revealed the source of the drugs. I believe if the source was known, they would be another friend that is neither a major or minor distributor of illegal drugs, instead someone else doing a favor for a friend. This story is all too familiar and I'm beginning to believe it is a standard mode of operation among the narcs. Basically, if you can't catch a real drug dealer then create one. The undercover cop that befriended Mike and the narc that trapped my relative spent considerable time and public money trying to arrest a drug dealer. In both cases there just wasn't anyone at the end of the case so to justify their time and expenditures they had to create and arrest someone for drug dealing. That is why Mike is now in the Clark County Jail right now, to justify the thousands of dollars of public money spent on the undercover narc's investigation. This guy was well paid to spend more than a year being Mike's best friend. He got to live the high life without making a contribution to anything, community or otherwise. I have to keep reminding myself that many a narc is a former drug dealer that was too dumb to avoid getting caught and made a deal to join 'team narc' (regular paycheck and benefits) and rat out their former buddies, the bad guys.
The dirtbag in this story is the cop who created a drug dealer because he couldn't find one.
Thanks to the fact that the War On Drugs lumps them together. The drug alcohol is legal, which is why licensed alcohol sellers don't sell meth.
Why don't we make every crime punishable by execution. Then, pretty much everyone will not commit any crime.
Or do we live in a society that supposedly tries to live up to a principle where the punihsment of a crime should fit the crime? If that is the case, and I believe it is so, does putting someone in jail for two years really fit the 'crime' of selling someone a joint, even if it is 1000 feet or less of a school?
I`m not laughing. Drugs are a problem taking drugs is a decision one can say no to or go for, it`s their choice he made his choice and got caught now its time to pay the piper possible 2 years locked up? so be it.
He was 17
It wasn't a plea bargain. There was a two day jury trial. He was convicted of selling marijuana within 1000 feet of a school because there was a preschool in a church within 1000 feet of where they were. They were in a parking lot where young people hung out and people were complaining a lot of drug activity was occurring there. The drug task force sent undercover officers in to make buys over a several month period. Several others ended up getting arrested in the end, mostly for selling the hard stuff. This kid sold 1.12 grams of marijuana to a drug task force officer. He claims the officer kept badgering him about selling him him some pot and finally offered twice what it was worth so he sold it to him. The officer contends that the boy approached him offering him pot. The boy was seventeen when the offense occurred. His prison sentence was the mandatory minimum for his crime. The judge had to give him at least that after the jury rendered its verdict of guilty.
So why not make execution the punishment for all crimes, including speeding?
When I was in school, we had to pay for drugs. Guns, too.
Kids today.. oy.
I know what the law says, I was questioning whether the punishment fit the crime. You appear to believe it is so. If that's your philosophy, let's make every crime punishable by severe amounts of jail time. We own't even get into the issue of overcrowding jails, but would you like to live in a society where speeding is punishable by 2 years in jail? Jaywalking? Someone stealing a candy bar from the store? Littering? We can really stop a lot of crime that way.
I know the liberals will cry and whine but but its only his fist offense or he was a good boy or never been in trouble before doesn't hack it with me, I am sure this poor lad of 17 now 18 knew and thought He could get away with it well he lost. T.S.
You've seemed to have side stepped this issue on whether the punishment fits the crime.
If the people want a law like that so be it sure would make the roads safer.I believe the law is half way their now you cause a death driving fast I believe the charge is manslaughter.or at least a long time behind bars.
Before Guliani, people would say "don't worry about 'minor' things like teens breaking windows, drinking and pissing in public, selling a little pot here and there and stripping idle cars and putting them up on cinder blocks, etc., etc.
"After all," the jaded city people of New York City would say, "We have more important crimes for our police people to address."
But Guliani did not subscribe to that nonsense. He correctly realized that is is the little crimes that lead to the bigger crimes. Once a particular neighborhood was allowed to have boarded up windows, cars up on blocks and kids selling dope, then more serious crime would quickly follow and that neighborhood would become unliveable for decent people.
So Guiliani had his 40,000+ people focus on petty crime. Drunks and bums were rousted out of streets and hallways of public buildings. Broken windows got quickly fixed and graffiti got immediately painted over while vandals got arrested. Abandoned cars were immediately towed away. Trash got picked up. Police stopped "windshield washers" and took them off the NYC streets. Jails filled up and the streets got a lot safer.
We need that same mentality everywhere. People might yip and yap about some 17-year-old kid getting 2 years of jail time for selling a little pot. But guess what? This kid is no longer selling pot and chances are he will not do so when he gets out. Chances are that many other 17-year-old kids like him are selling pot no more.
So we make an example of this 17-year-old kid in order that our streets be a little safer and that others like him are discouraged from making the same mistake.
Crime was reduced pretty much everywhere in the 90's, not just NYC.
Two years in jail is an apporpriate punishment for selling a joint? Why?