A Black man sentenced to life for $30 worth of marijuana will be freed.

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Derek Harris
Derek Harris

Black men and women often fight and sometimes die for America’s freedom and liberty but they themselves never get a chance to enjoy such freedom.

Military veteran, Derek Harris, was sentenced to life for selling less than $30 worth of marijuana to a police officer. The punishment far outweighs the crime but such is life in the racist state of Louisiana.

Harris, who was arrested in 2008 was recently re-sentenced to time served but that’s after he already serving nine years in prison.

Initially, Harris was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, according to the Louisiana Supreme Court. He was re-sentenced in 2012 to life in prison under the Habitual Offender Law, which allows judges to impose stricter sentences on someone who’s been charged before.

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Prosecutors in Vermilion Parish agreed to release Harris from prison after the Louisiana Supreme Court granted him a new hearing last month, said his lawyer Cormac Boyle.

The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed with Harris’ argument claiming he had “ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review.” The matter was sent back to the trial court for an evidentiary writ.

The District Attorney’s office agreed that Harris “received ineffective assistance at sentencing and was entitled to a lesser sentence,” Boyle said in a statement.

He also noted that Harris had a substance abuse problem that started when he returned from Desert Storm, a US military operation during the Gulf War launched in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

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“His prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs,” Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer wrote in his opinion.

Weimer noted in his opinion that the trial judge said that Harris was “not a drug kingpin” and didn’t fit what they thought of “as a drug dealer, so far as I can tell.”

Weimer wrote that those were the main reasons the maximum 30-year sentence was not imposed. He also said that the trial court imposed a life sentence when the multiple offender bill was passed.



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