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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_mizanskey_resize.jpg
Angela Reyes
A recent photo of Jeff Mizanskey.
For the past 20 years, Chris Mizanskey, now 33, has had to go to prison to see his father. But his dad, Jeff, is not a murderer or a rapist. He was, however, busted for possession of about five pounds of pot, his third marijuana-related felony. And in Missouri, if you get three drug felonies, even if it's just marijuana, you can get life without parole.

Read our in-depth profile of Jeff Mizanskey.

Meanwhile, during the past two decades, Chris has seen a sea change in marijuana laws, as several states have legal pot for medicine and two states have it for recreational use. So lately he has been wondering why his dad is sentenced to die in prison for something that most of America considers harmless -- and he wants Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to address his concerns by granting his father clemency.

"I think twenty years is more than enough," Chris tells Daily RFT. "My dad never hurt anybody. He never killed anybody. He made some mistakes, but he's paid more than enough."

Jeff's troubles began on December 18, 1993, when he drove his friend, Atilano Quintana, to a Super 8 motel in Sedalia to meet two men. Jeff says he thought they were going to meet two men to discuss moving furniture to New Mexico for Quintana's sister, who had recently moved there. To this day, he claims he had no clue Quintana was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.

See also: Marijuana Report: St. Louis Arrests Blacks For Possession 18 Times More Often Than Whites

And Quintana didn't know that the two friends who were in the motel with the brick of weed had just been busted the day before -- with thirteen bricks of marijuana -- and were coerced to participate in a sting operation to nab more buyers, which is why there were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room. You can guess what happened next.

Although Quintana was in possession of the package when he and Jeff were arrested and the surveillance video clearly suggests he was the one making the purchase, he was given a ten-year sentence for possession with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.

For the same charge, Jeff, who was busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to an undercover cop and again in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana, got life without parole. He had never before done prison time, never had a violent offense, and his pot convictions did not have aggravating factors, such as involving minors or an illegal firearm. But none of that mattered because of an archaic Missouri law.

See also: Rep. Jeremy LaFaver Will Not Resign Seat Over Marijuana Arrest

Jeff was convicted under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" statute, a Three Strikes-like statute that permits a court to hand out a life-without-parole sentence to somebody with three nonviolent drug offenses. But Missouri's law is unique in that it doesn't require at least one violent offense to lock up a person for life, whereas most states' habitual-offender laws do. California requires at least one violent offense. So does Georgia. And even Alabama, which doesn't require a distinction between violent and nonviolent felonies, paroled a man who had initially received a life without parole sentence for three nonviolent felonies -- the third of which happened to be a selling-marijuana conviction.

But when it comes to pot, Missouri can be stricter than Georgia or Alabama -- and Jeff Mizanskey might never get out of prison.

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212 comments
Doug Syler
Doug Syler

Can't see who you're addressing.

Doug Syler
Doug Syler

Yeah why would the state expect to profit from sale of one particular drug in a special cannabis dispensary? Is it because of a special demand for the plant which the state plans to exploit?

Doug Syler
Doug Syler

I'm sympathetic, not so with the governor, who received clemency petitions and did nothing. I don't see who you're addressing the comment to on this post or your next one. I'll read up again, but from reading about it a long time ago, I thought he was with a friend who made a deal to buy drugs from state employees in a hotel room, left and was arrested with the friend, and had almost no cannabis on him.

Stu Katz
Stu Katz

Amazing, he is 33 and looks like he is in his late 50's. Prison has taken a toll on this man.

James Pate
James Pate

This is ridiculous !! It lacks even the smallest amount of common sense. There have been countless predators that have raped children and women only to get less time in prison than this poor bastard. Jay Nixon should release this man immediately.!!

Sean Steinhoff
Sean Steinhoff

I say this with as much feeling as I can muster. Fuck the Missouri criminal justice system. Fuck them.

Lisa Eastman Gutterman
Lisa Eastman Gutterman

By the way Riverfront Times why would you not post the petition to have him freed be part of the change not part of the problem

Jennifer Chappius
Jennifer Chappius

I say we riot! Smash pumpkins in front of his jail. Block off highways. Steal everything we can and burn anything in our way. Just kidding. That's what assholes do. Hey black racists posting these dumbass racist comments, it's old already and nobody feels sorry for you. Just saying.

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.

cenobio0825
cenobio0825

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

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