March 3, 2014. Sedalia, MO. Thanks to the only 3 Strikes mandatory sentencing law of its kind in the nation, 61-year-old Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison serving a life sentence for three minor marijuana offenses. He’s already served 20 years for the same act that tens of thousands of reputable businesses now do every day in America. He sold a small amount of pot. Now, his son and family are begging MO Governor Jay Nixon to free him.
Jeff Mizanskey is serving Life for 3 minor marijuana offenses. Image courtesy of Show-MeCannabis.com.
Dad’s 3 crimes
“Dad's first offense was in 1984 when he sold an ounce to an undercover informant,” Jeff’s son Chris recalls on his Change.org petition, “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.”
It’s probably worth noting that in virtually all jurisdictions in America, one ounce of marijuana (picture a half-filled small plastic sandwich bag) is considered a low-level crime and only a misdemeanor. In many cities and counties, it’s the equivalent of a ticketable traffic violation. Next, Jeff Mizanskey’s third offense didn’t involve any marijuana at all. He was simply the victim of the government’s notoriously unjust ‘association’ crimes. In virtually all areas of the country, if a group of 10 friends are walking down the street and only one has marijuana in his or her pocket, often all ten individuals are arrested, charged and convicted of ‘possession’.
It’s also important to mention that Mizanskey’s life sentence is unique. Virtually all other states and ‘three strikes’ laws require at least one violent offence to impose a life sentence. And none in the country mandate a life sentence for three marijuana offenses. Jeff’s three crimes were all non-violent and didn’t include any ‘aggravating’ circumstances like selling to a minor, possessing a firearm, or being within a certain distance of a school.
In one instance, it was shown he wasn’t even aware of the deal being made by a friend and instead, Mizanskey was only present to help move the friend’s sister’s furniture to her new home. In the second instance, Jeff wasn’t the one selling the marijuana. Surveillance footage clearly showed him as a spectator to a sale someone else was making.
“My dad is, and always has been, a good man. He taught my brother and I all about construction and a good work ethic,” Chris Mizanskey says of his incarcerated father, “He has never been violent and he is a model prisoner. And over the twenty years he has been in that little cell, he has watched as violent criminals, rapists, and murderers have paid their debts and left - sometimes just to return a few months later.”
The Change.org petition goes on to quote Chris’ appeal saying, “My father is 61 years old and has been in prison since he was 41. His parents - my grandparents - have since passed. While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man. The State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000/year to keep him locked up. Meanwhile all my dad wants to do is be a productive part of society, work and pay taxes, and be with his family. And I want my dad back.”
Long, hard fight
Chris has been fighting for his father’s release for years. Without the vast sums of money required to hire an attorney to fight for justice, he’s been forced to travel and make the rounds at various marijuana reform rallies and demonstrations to help generate awareness of his dad’s plight. As detailed by the local Riverfront Times blog, it was at one of those functions that Chris came across attorney Tony Nenninger.
As it turned out, Nenninger wasn’t a criminal defense lawyer, much less one qualified to argue a life sentence. But he simply couldn’t sit idly by and do nothing. “He wants to get to know his dad," Nenninger said, "And when he came to the meeting, he felt desperate and motivated and I took note of it." He went on to explain, “What they're doing to Jeff is cruel and unusual punishment. That's really the only way to explain it."
Attorney Nenninger went on to pen a letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon asking for clemency for Mizanskey. But when the volunteer lawyer dropped it off at the Governor’s office personally, he was informed by staffers that they had already received over 2,000 written appeals on Jeff Mizanskey’s behalf from other citizens. That was six months ago and still, the Governor refuses to act.
Chris Mizanskey closes his online petition writing, ‘Governor Jay Nixon is the only person who has the power to bring my dad home by granting clemency to Jeff and calling 20 years punishment enough. Please help us reach a just and reasonable end to his prison sentence by signing and sharing this petition.’
To sign the petition requesting the release of Jeff Mizanskey, visit Change.org.
To submit a letter directly to Governor Nixon via the Governor’s online contact form, click on Governor.MO.gov.
Top 5 recommended Whiteout Press articles. If you missed these the first time, check them out now.
Support Indy-Media - Support Whiteout Press