Black Man Serving Life Sentence for $20 Marijuana Sale Released From Prison

Illustration for article titled Black Man Serving Life Sentence for $20 Marijuana Sale Released From Prison
Photo: Dan Henson (Shutterstock)

A Black man in Louisiana who was serving a life sentence over two bags of weed worth only $20 has finally been freed from prison after 12 years.

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I didn’t need any further proof that the American justice system is far from just, but a life sentence? For what may have barely been an eighth? What the actual fuck?

According to WWLTV, 53-year-old Fate Winslow was resentenced to time served and released from Angola State Prison on Wednesday. In 2008, Winslow was homeless when an undercover cop asked if he knew where he could get some weed. According to the appeal filed by attorneys at the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO), Winslow left and shortly returned with two small bags of weed worth $20. The officer then gave him $5 for some food.

Aww, what a sweet gesture before entirely fucking up someone’s life.

Winslow’s case received substantial media coverage throughout the years, including multiple Rolling Stone articles. One of those articles pointed out the fact that while Winslow was arrested and sentenced, the white drug dealer who gave him the drugs wasn’t even arrested, despite the fact he had been found with the marked $20 bill on him.

“The other inmates could never believe it. They always said, ‘You’re doing life for a bag of weed?’” Winslow told WWLTV.

Winslow had previously been convicted for three non-violent crimes, including a business burglary when he was 17, a car burglary when he was 27, and cocaine possession when he was 36. He was convicted for marijuana distribution as a multiple offender, which apparently translates to life without parole.

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“A life sentence for two bags of weed? I never thought something like that could happen.” Winslow told WWLTV.

Hard same. Honestly, the fact he even served 12 years over two bags of weed is a testament to just how fucked the legal system is. Imagine thinking you were going to spend the rest of your life in prison over a dimebag? The sentence is more immoral than the actual act.

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Winslow’s sentence was reduced after IPNO director and lead attorney Jee Park appealed on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. “There are hundreds of individuals serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes in Louisiana,” Park said. “He received an obscenely excessive sentence given his life circumstances and crime, and today, we are correcting that unconstitutional, inhumane sentence.”

Winslow is excited to be reunited with his children and grandchildren. He plans to live with his daughter in Shreveport as he gets back on his feet and has a landscaping job already waiting for him.

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He told WWLTV that beyond the obvious desire to reconnect with his family, one of the first things he wants to do is hit up a Popeyes. All I know is that after the fuckery this man had to endure, there better not be a 15-minute wait on spicy when he gets there.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.

DISCUSSION

Makes Me Wonder Why I Even Bring The Thunder

Can we take a moment and appreciate just how horrible Jason Brown, the prosecutor in this case is?

On Feb. 24 [2020], Calcasieu Parish prosecutor Jason Brown was fired after defense attorneys alleged that he withheld exculpatory evidence in the second-degree murder trial of Joey Julian.

In 2015, when former appellate judge James Stewart became the first Black district attorney of Caddo Parish, 11 prosecutors left the office. At least two of them ended up in DeRosier’s office—including Brown.

As a Caddo assistant district attorney, Brown prosecuted Fate Winslow, a homeless man, for selling $20 of marijuana to an undercover Shreveport police officer in 2008. Brown filed a habitual offender bill against Winslow who was then sentenced to life without parole. James Cass was prosecuted by Brown for possession with intent to distribute about 1.5 ounces of marijuana, and Cass received a 40-year sentence. Larry John Thompson, also prosecuted by Brown, received a life sentence for possession with intent to distribute “five individually packaged rocks of crack cocaine.” [emphasis added, because, of course, this wasn’t a one time thing]

Brown was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to win a case, including, in one instance, failing to disclose forged documents, said J. Antonio Florence, another longtime public defender and defense attorney in Caddo Parish.

Brown and Caddo prosecutors, including Holland and Lea Hall, were also accused by a whistleblower of being “police wannabes” who behaved more like gun-toting law enforcement officers than prosecutors. Brown acknowledged that he accompanied police on “search and arrest” operations

In August 2019, Brown was disqualified as a candidate for the Bossier Parish Police Jury—the equivalent of a county governing board—over questions about his residency. It was the second of his three campaigns for public office that year. Months before, in March, Brown lost a bid for a judgeship on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the same seat abruptly vacated by Henry Brown, his father, amid a corruption investigation in 2018. [emphasis added]

In 2016, Brown went public with his objections to the removal of a Confederate soldiers memorial in Caddo Parish.

Julian attorney Clemons said that the Jim Crow-era signs displayed in Brown’s building underscored why he should not be serving the public.