By Tony Nenninger, Attorney at Law
When I met Jeff Mizanskey's son at a Show-Me Cannabis Regulation statewide meeting in 2012, I already knew about countless nightmares peaceful citizens had suffered because of cannabis prohibition, but I could hardly believe there was someone in Missouri serving life without parole for a cannabis-only offense. After meeting Jeff in the Jefferson City maximum security prison and reviewing his legal records, I know this is a nightmare he will die in prison with if we on the outside do not help. Jeff's family and I shared his hopes that the proposed initiative petition provision to release all cannabis-only offenders from prison, probation, and parole would awaken Jeff and others from the nightmare of cannabis prohibition and we continue to hope future proposals will include this provision.
In 1993, a vehicle was stopped for a traffic violation and 84 pounds of cannabis was found. The transporters agreed to assist police in arresting the intended recipient. An audiovisual recording police made with hidden equipment shows the transporters and the police were surprised that Jeff drove the intended recipient to the motel for the meeting. Jeff and the intended recipient were arrested as they left the motel room. Seven pounds of cannabis was found under the intended recipient's jacket. Only three grams of cannabis was found in Jeff's pocket, but he was prosecuted for aiding the intended recipient in possessing cannabis with intent to distribute. The transporters were never charged. The intended recipient pleaded guilty and received a ten year sentence. Jeff contested his charges and, after a jury convicted him, a judge sentenced him to life. (It is not clear from the record whether the now-deceased judge intended to deny the possibility of parole, but, based on the Court Clerk's entries on the judgment form, Jeff is being held without parole).
Jeff was sentenced under Missouri law as a prior and persistent drug offender because he had three prior cannabis-only felony convictions. In 1984, Jeff sold one ounce to an informant, who obtained a search warrant for Jeff's house where over 35 grams was found the next day. In 1991, Jeff pleaded guilty to possessing over 35 grams. He was arrested in December of 1993 for his current charges and has been incarcerated ever since. Jeff has no other criminal record. There was no violence, guns, juveniles or other aggravating factors involved in any of his convictions. Jeff has been an ideal inmate who has maintained good behavior and prison jobs during his incarceration. Jeff has has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to get relief from the Missouri Court of Appeals and Federal Courts during the past 20 years of his incarceration.
Jeff recently submitted an application for executive clemency to Governor Nixon asking that his sentence be commuted to time served. Many prisoners make these applications. It is rare that a case gets enough of a Governor's attention to be seriously considered. However, like all politicians, Governor Nixon will notice if enough citizens call a political issue to his attention. That is why Jeff and I are asking that concerned citizens write a short letter today to Governor Nixon asking that he commute Jeff Mizanskey's sentence to time served.
Please e-mail a copy of any such letter to me so that we can keep track of citizen support to end this senseless nightmare. Jeff and I thank you for your personal assistance.