Allen Russell to continue serving life sentence for marijuana conviction

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A Black man, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison due to a marijuana conviction in Mississippi, was denied when he appealed his conviction.

On Tuesday, the Mississippi Court of Appeals denied Allen Russell’s appeal due to his history of being a “habitual offender.”

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In 2019, the 38-year-old was found guilty of possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana. Russell was previously convicted on two separate home burglary charges in 2004 and possession of a firearm in 2015. He spent more than 10 years in jail, according to NewsOne.

Russell was arrested in November 2017 for possession of five bags of marijuana. The bags were confiscated by police. The AP reported that it’s illegal in Mississippi to possess between 30 to 250 grams of marijuana and the crime carries a punishment of up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.

“Russell contends that his enhanced sentence as a habitual offender constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and is grossly disproportionate to the crime committed,” according to the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reported last year that there were 86 “habitual offenders” currently serving life without parole due to conviction of nonviolent crimes.

Latrice Westbrooks, a Mississippi Court of Appeals judge whose views differed from the ruling, believed that the decision to uphold his life sentence undermines the duty of the court.

“The purpose of the criminal justice system is to punish those who break the law, deter them from making similar mistakes, and give them the opportunity to become productive members of society,” Westbrooks wrote.

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“The fact that judges are not routinely given the ability to exercise discretion in sentencing all habitual offenders is completely at odds with this goal,” Westbrooks continued.

She concluded by saying that “situations like the one currently before us are a prime example of why many people have called for criminal justice reform with regard to sentencing.”

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