Last Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider the lifetime sentence that was handed out to Lee Carroll Brooker, a 75-year-old disabled veteran suffering from chronic pain.
A 2011 drug bust brought Booker and his son down on cultivation charges for growing a few dozen cannabis plants on his sons property. The weight of the plants was approximately two kilograms, triggering an Alabama law that requires a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who has prior felony convictions and is in possession of greater than . . . you guessed it . . . two kilograms of marijuana.
In total, the weight of all plant matter collected was just 2.8 pounds. Which is actually less than a full two kilograms. Brooker’s son was sentenced to five years of probation and five years of prison, the prison sentence has the possibility of being suspended if he does well on probation. During his sentencing hearing the trial judge told Brooker that if he could render a lesser sentence he would. Last year Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court wrote a six page opinion in which he stated that the sentence was “excessive and unjustified,” and said it revealed “grave flaws” in the state’s sentencing laws.
The foundation for Brooker’s argument is that the punishment violates his 8th amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments. Life without parole is the 2nd harshest punishment that a criminal offender can receive. The harshest is the death penalty and one could argue that it is more compassionate to die in your sleep than to have to live the rest of your days in a cage. Regardless, neither should be mandatory sentences for any crime.
A life sentence for growing some plants in your backyard does more than show the “grave flaws” in sentencing laws but it also proves that the most dangerous threat to our freedom is people who, regardless of their own conscience are, in their own words are, “just doing their job”. The sentencing judge publicly displayed his disagreement for the punishment and still chose to enact it because it was his job to ruin this man’s life. While the judge himself would never drag Mr. Brooker or his son to a cage himself, he has no problem ordering their caging against his own moral constitution.
The police officer whose job it is to capture Mr. Brooker and take him to the cage will do so because it’s his job. The jailer will proceed caged and guard him because that is his job and none of this is about what is right but is only what is legal. Lee Carroll Brooker is one of at least 14 people serving life in prison for pot and is one of eight who are over the age of 62.