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After 20 Years in Prison, Missouri Man Serving Life Without Parole for Marijuana Asks Governor for Clemency

Categories: Crime, Drugs

Jeff has tried the appeals process, but his family has been unable to afford private counsel, and he has either filed his own appeals or depended on overworked public defenders. Unsurprisingly, the appeals went nowhere.

But Chris, who still lives in Sedalia and works in a bar, has seen how Missourians, along with the rest of the country, have relaxed their views on marijuana: St. Louis decriminalized possession of less than 35 grams and U. City-based State Representative Rory Ellinger has said he wants to push a bill legalizing marijuana in Missouri like they do in Colorado. So about two years ago, he started attending Show-Me Cannabis meetings to talk to the pro-legalization crowd about his father's situation.

See also: Marijuana Legalization in Missouri: Rep. Rory Ellinger Plans Bill to Regulate Pot Like Colorado

"What's happened to him isn't right," Chris tells Daily RFT. "And I just think people should know that this happens. My dad wasn't a violent man. People always tell me what a good guy he was. He worked hard. He doesn't deserve this. Who does?"

See also: Ricky Griffin Sr: Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for Selling Weed

Chris' words got the attention of Tony Nenninger, a Bourbon-based lawyer who practices general law but takes up civil rights cases from time to time. He says he became interested in helping when he heard Chris' desire to get his father out of prison.

"He wants to get to know his dad," Nenninger says. "And when he came to the meeting, he felt desperate and motivated and I took note of it."

After reviewing the case, Nenninger decided to take it up, despite the fact that criminal defense is not his area of expertise, much less life-without-parole sentence appeals.

"What they're doing to Jeff," says Nenninger, who has twice visited Mizanskey in prison since taking the case, "is cruel and unusual punishment. That's really the only way to explain it."

In a letter to the governor, Nenninger writes:

I am not aware of any other person in Missouri who is serving a life sentence for non-violent cannabis-only offenses. It is no secret that all recent major polls indicate over 50% of Americans, including Missourians, favor the complete legalization of adult use of marijuana. We are not asking you to commit to this new majority preference for cannabis legalization, but rather as Governor of Missouri to represent the current population's modern sociopolitical trends to liberalize marijuana laws in considering the commutation of Jeff's sentence.

When Jeff was sentenced on June 19, 1996 the population and the judiciary were guided by hysterical misinformation about cannabis that has since been clarified by more extensive science. Modern judicial sentencing practices reflect this science and the population's recognition that cannabis is not the scourge of society that it was once thought to be. It is reasonable for you to commute Jeff's sentence consistent with modern sentencing practices.

Nenninger's hope is that he can get enough people to write letters to Nixon that his attention will be caught. That might prove difficult, given that when he first dropped off his own letter at the governor's office in June, the clerk told him that there are more than 2,000 clemency pleas on file, and Nixon has yet to grant a single one.

But Nenninger is trying, anyway. He and Chris believe that if the governor looks at the case, he'll understand the absurdity of the situation.

"My father has seen people do much worse crimes and get out before him," Chris says. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Below is Nenninger's complete letter to Governor Nixon:

mizanskey clemency letter .pdf

Follow Ray Downs on Twitter at @RayDowns. E-mail the author at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.

My Voice Nation Help
198 comments
Donna Carpenter
Donna Carpenter

I have sent my letter to governor Nixon and I ask everyone to do the same. Let's see if he will do what's right.

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

He wasn't sentenced to life for 3 grams of pot. He was sentenced to life for 3 of something else. I think it starts with an "F".

Gerri Irons
Gerri Irons

So wrong, every one deserved another chance .what if it was u sre u r son are daughter.

Jonathan McLandsborough
Jonathan McLandsborough

Just amazing. With all the crap that goes on in the drug world this man is punished for 3 strikes. Heaven forbid all of the heroin that is readily available for all ages in Missouri. They kill people and get to post bail. Merica!

Janet Uplinger
Janet Uplinger

Impeach Governor Nixon and don't vote for Anyone who is against legalization of marijuana

Steve Bidwell
Steve Bidwell

Wow, this is so wrong and immoral. It just serves as a reminder to the absurdity of the system. If we continue to ignore the need to update and revise certain laws so that they apply to a modern society we'll continue to see lives ruined by archaic laws...

cenobio0825
cenobio0825

I think a lot of people are taking this article wrong... We aren't trying to free a hardened criminal.. We are trying to free a father.. An uncle.. A brother.. He didn't do meth, rob people or hurt anyone. He smoked pot. And for those of you that are so consumed with negativity, do you not know one good person that smokes? Regardless off his color, or lack of, he deserves to be free... And if you don't think he does, just simply shut up... His family goes threw enough without hearing your shit... Don't get ugly.. Just go away...

Mark Wolff
Mark Wolff

So stupid. I feel for the man and his family, but tax payers are paying about $40k a year to feed and clothe inmates. So stupid. Let this man go along with others in prison and jail for marijuana possession. So stupid.

Gary Muich
Gary Muich

Prick governor and crooked court systems!

Amber Dotson
Amber Dotson

His arrest report clearly states 2-3 grams on his person.. But was present at a deal with several pounds.. It made it a felony because of the persistent offenders law. Facts have not been altered just have not been shared in complete by the media

Vincent S Fortson
Vincent S Fortson

Amber Dotson you called your own suppose to be uncle a shit head if you don't Respect him what makes you think we will..Get Real

Jennifer Annabelle Hyatt
Jennifer Annabelle Hyatt

5 pounds is a lot more than 3 grams - 3 grams would not have been a felony 16 oz or 1 pound become felonious as well as intent to distribute. I'm sorry your family is going through this; however, the articles all state it was 5 pounds & facts should not be altered.

Vincent S Fortson
Vincent S Fortson

Nick Pappagiorgio Don't flatter yourself that sarcastic racism will never work

Nick Pappagiorgio
Nick Pappagiorgio

I read his public thoughts but he won't let loose of what he really thinks. One of these days we will be forced to work together and get along. Take care Vincent.

Amber Dotson
Amber Dotson

Looks like Vincent finally got the reaction he was waiting for.. Lmao

Vincent S Fortson
Vincent S Fortson

Has to be some Meth head waiting on you to get high with..Go get yours Nick

Vincent S Fortson
Vincent S Fortson

Nick Pappagiorgio. Shouldn't you get back on your 4 wheeler are head back to the barn ..

Amber Dotson
Amber Dotson

Vincent S Fortson your ignorance gets no more of my attention.. \U0001f602

Amber Dotson
Amber Dotson

Yes let me go get the links for you.. Thanks

Debbie Lee
Debbie Lee

This is so wrong. He's done his time and then some.

Amber Dotson
Amber Dotson

Obviously you are the racist your the only one trying your best to make this a race issue.. Its a man in prison for life for a little bit of weed.. Go troll somewhere else. I can't stand people like you.. Trying to keep shit going to start an unnecessary ass argument. Stick with the topic at hand.

Janet Uplinger
Janet Uplinger

Redd.... Maybe you could help get signatures for the 2016 Election We need all the help we can get to fight for "all" non violent drug offenders . My group page is Missourians for cannabis/ pettis county you can also check out showme cannabis page We Educate people on all the good reasons why it should be legalized

Vincent S Fortson
Vincent S Fortson

Now were are all the negative racist comments if this man was black white people would be all over this now who's really the Racist ?

Brian Lewis
Brian Lewis

I said let him go. Doesnt mean he wasn't an idiot.

Janet Uplinger
Janet Uplinger

Black white I said we fight for all non violent drug offenders !!!!

Mark Alan McRoberts
Mark Alan McRoberts

This is a prime reason that the war on drugs is a complete and utter failure. It has not done anything but destroy families and lives. And we still have a drug problem. Lets legalize drugs and sell through a dispensary that is licensed. Stop the assault on people who have addiction problems.

Redd Folks
Redd Folks

I hope y'all talk the same when it comes to black offenders...ijs

cenobio0825
cenobio0825

You are a fucking idiot... Your lak of intellectual thought process is noticeable... Please don't breed...

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