Disabled Veterans

A 76-year-old disabled veteran is appealing the life sentence he was handed for growing pot. Lee Carroll Brooker, from Alabama, was found guilty of drug trafficking back in 2004.  He was arrested after cops raided his son, Darren Lee Brooker’s house in 2011, and seized 42 marijuana plants, which they claim had a street value of $92,000. Darren Brooker was also charged with trafficking—but, he was sentenced to five years’ probation, with a suspended five-year jail sentence that will be dismissed if he doesn’t violate any of the terms of his probation. His father received a life sentence, without the chance of parole, because he had four previous, decades-old, felony convictions, including one for armed robbery in Florida, which he had served jail time for. According to court documents, the defense asserted that Brooker was growing the pot for personal use. Brooker’s attorney argued that his client needed it to self-medicate in light of numerous physical illnesses. However, Alabama law mandates that any felon found possessing more than two pounds of marijuana must automatically receive a life sentence, without the chance of parole. Even the rabidly conservative Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, has slammed the sentence for being “excessive and unjustified.” In a 2015 memo Moore said Brooker’s case showed a “grave flaw” in Alabama’s legal system, and urged for reform of the statutory sentencing scheme: I believe Brooker’s sentence is excessive and unjustified. A trial court should have the discretion to impose a less severe sentence than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. I urge the legislature to revisit that statutory sentencing scheme to determine whether it serves an appropriate purpose. Brooker is appealing his life sentence, claiming it violates his Eighth Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Meanwhile, the ACLU notes that more than 3,000 people are currently serving life sentences, without the chance of parole, for non-violent crimes.   by Maxine Page