#200 Lack Of Drug War Pardons Is Also A Scandal

Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001
Subject: #200 Lack Of Drug War Pardons Is Also A Scandal

Lack Of Drug War Pardons Is Also A Scandal

NOTE: This is The 200th Focus Alert DrugSense and MAP have distributed
to thousands of letter writing volunteers in our ongoing attempt to
educate the media and thereby the public on a wide range of drug
policy topics. Please use this milestone as the catalyst to renew your
commitment and make an extra attempt to become even more involved in
our group letter writing efforts.

It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #200 Tuesday March 6, 2001

Outrage over former President Clinton’s use of his pardon power has
focused mostly on the role money played in influencing pardon
decisions. While that may be troubling, it is even more outrageous to
think about some of the drug war victims who really deserved
presidential help.

Columnist Cynthia Tucker does so this week in the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. Please write a letter to the paper to say that
the real scandal of the pardon story is that those who have faced
great injustice because of the drug war received little or no



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Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Contact: insideajc@ajc.com


US GA: Column: War On Drugs’ Victims Still Jailed, While Rich Go Free

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n391/a02.html
Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Sun, 04 Mar 2001
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2001 Cox Interactive Media.
Contact: insideajc@ajc.com
Address: 72 Marietta Street, NW, Atlanta, Ga. 30303
Website: http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/
Forum: http://www.accessatlanta.com/community/forums/
Author: Cynthia Tucker


Karen Garrison didn’t have $400,000 to give first brother-in-law Hugh
Rodham, so her twin sons didn’t get clemency from former President

Perhaps if Clinton had just seen Garrison’s heartbreaking letter,
written in October 1998 to the judge in her sons’ drug trial:

“I’m writing this letter with facts, feelings of indescribable
despair, and ( I am ) at your mercy. ( My sons ) were found guilty by
a jury. . . . You may not remember, but next to childbirth, I will
never forget that night. Now I’m asking that you consider ( the facts
) and my torn apart heart. Lamont and Lawrence are not guilty. . .

But Garrison didn’t have millions for Clinton’s presidential library
or connections to well-heeled lawyers with access to the White House.
So her sons remain in prison under harsh laws meant for drug kingpins
but which routinely bury penny-ante dealers, instead.

If Clinton cared about a legacy, he had a perfect opportunity to leave
one. Instead of granting clemency to just a few small-time drug
offenders, as he did, he might have pardoned or commuted the sentences
of thousands. He might have pointed out the folly of the so-called war
on drugs.

With many less-affluent Americans in prison rather than fancy drug
rehab centers, Clinton could have redefined himself as a committed
populist. With many African-Americans ensnared by the injustices of
the system, he could have helped a black constituency that has been
extremely loyal.

He could have started with the Garrison twins. Lamont and Lawrence
were 25 years old, a month away from college graduation, when they
were arrested in 1998. Friends, relatives and teachers all testify to
their honesty, hard work and respect for the law. They had no criminal
records, not even as juveniles. They wanted to become lawyers.

But they had left a car for repair with a Maryland body shop owned by
Tito Abea, and they had argued with him over the work. When Abea was
arrested on drug charges, prosecutors offered him leniency if he
implicated others. His testimony convicted the Garrisons. There was no
hard evidence. Police could not tie the twins to drugs or guns or even
money. Indeed, they were head-over-heels in debt with school expenses.

Now they are felons — Lamont serving 19 1/2 years while Lawrence
serves 15 1/2.

While the case of the Garrisons is so heart-breaking because they are
probably innocent, others — guilty of the charges — deserved
clemency because of sentences too harsh for their crimes. Johnny
Patillo, for instance.

In 1992, he was 27 and desperate for cash. Months away from completing
a San Diego college, he agreed to mail a package for $500. Although he
admits he suspected the contents were illegal, he says he didn’t know
it contained 681 grams of crack cocaine. He is serving 10 years.

Then there is Duane Edwards, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf
War. He doesn’t deny selling 126 grams of crack to an undercover
officer in June 1995; Washington, D.C., police found another 61 grams
in his car.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Edwards’ appeal, although his lawyers
pointed out the unfairness of a sentencing structure that treats
powdered cocaine and crack cocaine differently. Those who traffic in
crack — usually poor blacks — get long prison terms, while those who
handle the same amounts of powdered cocaine — usually middle-class
whites — get lighter penalties.

Clinton owed a debt to felons like Edwards because he was too craven
to oppose that sentencing structure during his tenure. He should have
used his virtually limitless clemency authority not only to free
Edwards but also to right countless other injustices of this foolish
drug war.

Such clemencies would have sparked controversy, but it would have been
a controversy over ideas instead of ethics. And history might have
judged Clinton a courageous president who stood up for the common man
rather than a money-grubber who favored the rich.


Bravo for Cynthia Tucker’s outstanding column, “WAR ON DRUGS’ VICTIMS STILL
JAILED, WHILE RICH GO FREE.” Obviously, since a substantial “donation” was
not attached to the letter pleading mercy from the Mother of twin boys
sentenced to prison, President Clinton didn’t have the time to consider her
plea. Obviously, our color-blind “first black President” was not
color-blind to the color green.

We all know who received most of the Presidential pardons and why.
Most of the pardons were because of money and lots of it “donated”
directly or indirectly to the man who “didn’t inhale”, and who didn’t
have sexual relations with “that woman.”

Hopefully our new compassionate conservative President will take
advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate his compassion by
pardoning people that have made bad decisions. Not bad decisions that
resulted in other people being physically harmed, robed or swindled,
but rather bad decisions regarding the use or abuse of illegal substances.

Hopefully our compassionate conservative President will break the long
standing tradition of past Presidents and not wait until the very end
of his term to pardon those deserving it. Hopefully the recipients of
Presidents Bush’s pardons will be ordinary citizens who made bad
decisions regarding the use or sale of illegal substances.

Kirk Muse

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Prepared by Kirk Muse – http://www.drugwarinfo.com and Stephen Young
Focus Alert Specialists