Derek Harris, a military veteran who was arrested in Louisiana in 2008 for selling an undercover officer .69 grams of cannabis – worth $30 – was recently resentenced to time served and will be released from prison, CNN reports. He was originally sentenced to life and has already served nine years.
Harris was initially sentenced to 15 years but was resentenced in 2012 to life under the state’s Habitual Offender Law. The state Supreme Court had agreed to hear his case, agreeing that he had “ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review.”
In the opinion, Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer described Harris’ previous offenses as “nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs.” Harris developed a drug problem upon returning from “his honorable military service in Desert Storm,” a U.S. military operation in Iraq in 1990, he noted in the ruling.
Weimer added that Harris was “not a drug kingpin” and didn’t appear to be a full-time drug dealer. During the 2012 resentencing, 15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque said his hands were tied by the habitual offender law when he imposed the life term.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has found that judges can and must deviate from a mandatory minimum sentence in a case if they determine it “shocks the conscience.”
Harris’ release date has not been confirmed but he is expected to move closer to his family in Kentucky. His brother, Antoine, said his brother is still a little bit “shocked” by the ruling. The brothers lost their mother during Derek’s incarceration.
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