‘Baton Rouge, LA — Derek Harris is an honorably discharged veteran who put his life on the line for his country in Operation Desert Storm. His years of service to his country were but dust in the wind, however, to the state who threw him in a cage for the rest of his life for selling less than a gram of weed to an undercover cop.
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Here at the Free Thought Project we feel that life in prison without the possibility of parole for selling .69 grams of a plant is not only excessive but extremely cruel. Sadly, however, it is not unusual.
This week, Harris’ case is up for review by the Louisiana State Supreme Court and several of the justices are saying enough is enough. Thanks to a corrupt and defunct system that prosecutes non-violent drug offenders worse than child molesters, however, Harris is facing several major hurdles.
Due to a precedent set by a previous state court, convicts cannot challenge their sentences after they’ve already gone through the appeal process. That means Harris has very few options at his disposal.
Harris’ nightmare began back in 2008 when an undercover cop knocked on his door and asked to buy some weed. Harris had just .69 grams — barely enough to roll two joints — and sold it for $30. He was then raided by police, kidnapped and thrown in a cage. In 2012, 15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque found Harris guilty of marijuana distribution, a Vermilion Parish prosecutor invoked the state’s habitual-offender law, and Conque sentenced Harris to life as a four-time loser.
Harris has struggled with mental illness since he came back from Iraq. This led him down a path of addiction; and to maintain that addiction, Harris sold drugs and stole small items. However, Harris never hurt anyone and all of his crimes were misdemeanors.’