By Steve Elliott
Twenty-two years after being arrested for marijuana -- and 19 years after being sentenced to life in prison for it -- Jeff Mizanskey on Friday had his sentenced commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
Mizanskey, 62, was the only man in Missouri prisons serving life for pot, report Kevin S. Held and Anthony Kiekow at Fox 2 Now. He was arrested during an undercover drug operation in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1993, and was sentenced in 1996 under the state's Prior and Persistent Drug Offender Law, which is a three-strike, habitual offender system.
"The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness," Nixon said in a press release announcing the commutation of Mizanskey's sentence, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times. Nixon also pardoned five other nonviolent offenders.
"It's wonderful," said Michael Mizanskey, Jeff's brother. "Thank Jay Nixon for doing that, for finally looking at his case and doing the right thing.
"I'm very emotional," Michael said. "I've overjoyed he has a chance. In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that's not a model prisoner."
By Steve Elliott
In a very rare move, a Missouri legislator has proposed a bill to free one man from prison. That happened this week when Rep. Shamed Dogan filed House Bill 978, which would allow a parole board to release any prisoner serving a life sentence for nonviolent marijuana charges.
There's only one man in the state who fits that description, of course: Jeff Mizanskey, 61, a grandfather who has spent more than 20 years behind bars because of Missouri's horrific three-strike law for drug crimes, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times.
H.B. 978 doesn't mention Mizanskey by name, but freshman lawmaker Dogan made his intentions clear in a press release in which he called Mizanskey's sentence "a miscarriage of justice."
"It is unconscionable to me that this man, who is no danger to society, will spend the rest of his life in prison at taxpayer expense," Dogan said. "Many of my legislative colleagues have come together to implore the governor to commute Mr. Mizanskey's life sentence, but to date the governor has done nothing more than promise to review Jeff's case before he leaves office."
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.