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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.

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134 comments
speedology
speedology

Found out about this travesty of so-called justice on the Guardian's web site.  Am absolutely astounded.  People of America - you really know how to oppress folks!  Is this because so many of you are professed "Christians"?  It's just plain baffling!

(from the UK)

birdofflame_587
birdofflame_587

"Dad's first offense was in 1984 when he sold an ounce to an undercover informant, and then was found to possess a half pound of marijuana when police raided his house the next day.  His next offense occurred in 1991, when he was caught in possession of a couple of ounces. But for my father's final strike in 1993, he became an easy fall guy in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation. All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence."


Good riddance.

0711aba
0711aba

"Three Strikes, You're Out" law

The Federal Crime Bill and the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act signed by Bill Clinton in 1996. and this is why people have to be aware of what is going on in politics and to be careful who they elect and not vote these people back in power. wake up people, more laws are being singed today that takes away our rights

renramseyer
renramseyer

I pray that Jeff Mizanskey will be granted freedom.  His being incarcerated is not at all fair.


Carrie Hewitt
Carrie Hewitt

Was just talking about this story last night. Completely ridiculous! Free this man!!

Almas Farmhouseantiques
Almas Farmhouseantiques

This is a international embarrassment Prisons for profit and privatization end up creating situations where people who should not be in prison are. This is absolutely absurd. Governor please let this man out it is trully a disgrace for the State of Missouri. What a waste of taxpayer money. Sick and we paid for it.

Dana Jones Henson
Dana Jones Henson

Or if he had molested a bunch of kids he'd be free by now. Hell you can murder someone & do less time. Enough !!!!

Kenneth J DeNormandie
Kenneth J DeNormandie

He won't get out.. Now if he killed 3 or 4 kids he be on his front porch by now.. Thats the way it works.. So lets see if the Governor has any balls

spatter
spatter

Too bad Tony Leachwater is his lawyer. A douche bag of such sizable proportions that he would actually go to the trouble of naming a spring after himself. I could see if he discovered the spring or was a great person. He is possibly the biggest weasel and phony known to man. He sued 2 of his own neighbors and threatens other neighbors with lawsuits to get his way. And did I mention he has about 8 vehicles vomitted across 5 acres in some of the most beautiful land in the ozarks. He probably hurts the pot cause more than helps it. And he has been a leach on the gov't for much of his adult life. Its people like him that create republicans which possibly makes them even worse than reptilicans.

xbob
xbob

Sorry 3 strikes and you are you. He did his crime and now he has to do his time. There are so many other thing that you guys can be wasting your time that can truly help people

moolb12
moolb12

Good old misery... this fella will never get out. Missouri's legal system is a joke

jingypup
jingypup

I have to come to Mr Mizanskeys defense here. I have known this man for over 30 years and he is a very kind and loving man.Unfortunately he has been imprisoned for 20 years for being at the wrong place at the wrong time just to help a friend. The amount of pot he had in his other 2 previous arrests were minimal and would be a slap on the hand these days.Jeff has lost so much time with his family including the death of both his parents.How sad for him to be told that by phone and to grieve alone twice.He has more than served his time.Don't be so harsh in judging this man he truly is a good man that has been unjustly convicted of a non violent crime. His family has fought for many many years financially and by writing letters and after all this time someone has finally taken a stand for him and hopefully it will pay off and he can be reunited with his family that has always believed in him.

gavin8
gavin8

It's crazy to think this guy is looking at spending his life in prison for being present when someone else was doing a drug deal and there is evidence showing he didn't take part in it........ REALLY where is the justice when we have rapist and murders who do a few years or less?????? How can anyone think that sentence fit the crime? 

Coinspinner
Coinspinner

Wake up people.  Outrage is too tame of word to describe this blatant theft from the taxpayers.  This guy is going to take $2,000,000 of tax payer money because Jay Nixon and the entire MO legislature are abject CRIMINALS.


Rise up people, this is bullshit beyond words.

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

You should learn to say cannabis, the term marijuana comes from the racist aspect of prohibition of the plant. And why are we still locking people up for a harmless plant?

Steve Cossey
Steve Cossey

This is so dumb in so many ways! This guy has to be so mad and just have so much hatred from being in jail, oh yah, he probably doesn't because he just smokes a dried flower that doesn't kill you, and makes you even more of a forgiving and happy person! love

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

And to think in many other states people are allowed to smoke freely. I've said it before and sadly i will say it again. "This state sucks"

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Proof that Missouri is one of those backwards states.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Marijuana should be legalized taxed and regulated

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Governor Nixon is not a real democrat

Cheryl Keathley
Cheryl Keathley

She should be let out -- violent offenders serve years less -- it's a miscarriage of justice if he is a non-violent offender.

Andrea Mills
Andrea Mills

It is a plant that grows naturally! Life in prison for possession of a plant is ridiculously wrong. Give the man back his life.

Rj Hub
Rj Hub

this is not right. the wheels of justice in this case does not appear to have been just!

Sj Braun
Sj Braun

who u talking to; they be lying to ur face

Nikki Richards
Nikki Richards

Definitely writing, this is crazy!!! Hope it helps...

Chris Davis
Chris Davis

I encourage everyone commenting here to write governor Nixon. You can do it through his webpage. Takes only a few minutes. Thank you.

Kevin Cook
Kevin Cook

Insane. We're all paying for this guy to be there. I'm outraged.

Joan Reeves
Joan Reeves

Among many other things that are so ridiculous about the criminalization of weed.

Jolena Shatzer
Jolena Shatzer

Wow, this is a really terrible thing. I hope he gets out.

Jodie Mancin Lear
Jodie Mancin Lear

This man should granted his freedom. He has more than paid his debt.

Angry
Angry

Sad it will soon be forgotten.....again :/ He'll just be there in prison...until he pass away. 

No way to threat a harmless human.

JayMos
JayMos

This is outragious, though sadly not unique. Surely there must be something we can do beyond writing letters and complaining. Ideas?

outtabounz
outtabounz

I read this article while smoking weed legally in Washington State!

meghabeit
meghabeit

hii welcome to the site.when ALL that money for prison, plus police time, and court costs, is wasted on absolutely NOTHING

yeahokay1
yeahokay1

I just passed this on to my friend who is a state rep..  If you agree with me that this is an absurd injustice then you should take 5 minutes and write your state representative and Gov. Jay Nixon.

debbie118
debbie118

@birdofflame_587 I am a brit , but i saw a programme other day , an american woman was repeatedly raped for five hours with her three year old next to her. A belt had been tied around her throat and left for dead....that man got thirteen years...and is out!!!!!!!!!!!  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS LAW!!! 

IF anyone who does 'that' kind of crime is not in for life , then what is the point of having a criminal justice system. Dave cameron at the minute our primeminister is trying to cut the legal aid system, and is trying to come in line with your system!

THIS IS A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE...AND JUST PLAIN REVOLTING!. 


debbie118
debbie118

@xbob Sorry i do not agree with you ! You are talking rubbish!

rebeccamuncy
rebeccamuncy

@jingypup I already wrote to Gov. Nixon & asked him to grant Jeff clemency!  I hope it helps! His sentence is beyond ignorant! 

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