Missouri Bill To Free Man Serving Life Sentence For Marijuana Gets Hearing
House Bill 978 was heard by the Missouri House of Representatives’ Corrections Committee on the morning of Wednesday, March 4, at the Missouri Capitol building in Jefferson City. First-term Republican Representative Shamed Dogan of St. Louis filed the bill after discussions with Show-Me Cannabis representatives.
His initial plan was to file a bill which would encourage Governor Nixon to grant clemency to Jeff Mizanskey. Subsequently, the bill was amended to directly require that Jeff, and any other person presently incarcerated in Missouri under similar circumstances, be granted immediate parole.
Jeff Mizanskey is a Sedalia native who has been convicted of three marijuana felony offenses, but no other crimes during his entire life. Under a law known as the “prior and persistent drug offender” statute, the defendant in that situation can be sentenced to 10 to 30 years or life in prison and that sentence must be served without the possibility of parole or probation being granted.
That statute was repealed by the Missouri General Assembly in 2014 as part of a broad overhaul of the Missouri criminal laws in a bill drafted by a Committee of the Missouri Bar Association on which I served. However, the repeal takes effect on January 1, 2017, and is not retroactive.
Hundreds of thousands of online signatures, telephone calls and letters have been sent to Governor Nixon urging him to release Jeff from prison. Recently, the Governor has promised to review his case before leaving office. The Governor has also noted the fact that Jeff was sentenced under a law which has now been repealed.
Members of Jeff’s family spoke to the Committee on Wednesday morning. One of them read a letter from a retired Sedalia police officer who stated that Jeff had always been polite and respectful in his dealings with him.
I spoke in support of the bill, noting that in 30 years of representing cannabis defendants, I have never seen anyone receive such an unjust sentence. Members of the Committee inquired about how long Jeff has been in prison. The answer is over 20 years. I also noted in my testimony that the Prosecutor who asked for the sentence in Jeff’s case, recently-elected Pettis County Associate Circuit Judge Jeff Mittelhauser, has issued a statement calling for Mizanskey’s release.
No one spoke in opposition to the bill. All of the comments by members of the Corrections Committee were supportive of the proposed legislation. It is therefore hoped that this bill may soon be forwarded to the full House for a vote there and subsequently sent to the Missouri Senate for consideration.
Now is an excellent time to contact Governor Jay Nixon’s office at 573-751-3222 or by sending him an email here. The Chair of the Corrections Committee, Rep. Paul Fitzwater, will determine when and whether this bill is brought up to the Committee for a vote. Rep. Fitzwater may be contacted at 573-751-2112 or Paul.Fitzwater@house.mo.gov.
Show-Me Cannabis is working with Jeff’s family and others to secure his release as soon as possible. Donations to support that work may be made on our website here, or sign up for a $10 or $20 monthly recurring pledge here.
Source: Show-Me Cannabis