Missouri: After 20 Years In Prison, Man Serving Life For Marijuana Asks For Clemency
By Steve Elliott
A prisoner in Missouri who is serving a prison term of life without parole for marijuana has asked the governor for clemency after serving 20 years.
Jeff Mizanskey was arrested on December 18, 1993, when he drove a friend to a motel in Sedalia, Missouri, to meet two men, reports Ray downs at Riverfront Times. To this day, Mizanskey says he had no clue his friend, Atilano Quintana, was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.
What Quintana didn't know was that his two friends who were in the motel with a brick of cannabis had been busted the day before, with 13 bricks, and they had agreed to roll over and ensnare more buyers. There were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room; Quintana and Mizanskey were busted.
The surveillance video shows Quintana was the one who made the purchase, and the was the one in possession of the package when he and Mizanskey were arrested. Quintana got a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.
But this was Mizanskey's third pot charge. He'd been busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to a narc, and in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams.
Jeff, who had never done prison time and never had a violent offense, was given life without parole under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" law.
Missouri's law doesn't require any violent offenses to lock up a person for life, unlike most "three strikes" habitual offender laws.
Times are changing; St. Louis decriminalized possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana, and along with the rest of the nation, attitudes in Missouri are softening.
Now lawyer Tony Nenninger, based in Bourbon, Mo., has decided after reviewing the case to take it up. "What they're doing to Jeff is cruel and unusual punishment," he said after visiting Mizanskey twice in prison. "That's really the only way to explain it."
Nenninger hopes that if he can get enough people to write letters to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, that the governor might take notice. That will be a difficult task. When Nenninger dropped off his own letter at the Governor's office in June, he was told that there are more than 2,000 clemency pleas on file -- none of which has been granted by Gov. Nixon.
(Photo of Jeff Mizanskey: Angela Reyes)