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Why A Life Sentence For Selling $10 crack is not a fair sentence.

News Channel 7 reports

Gaffney man received a life prison sentence without parole today after a jury said he sold $10 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover police informant.

James R. Byers Jr., 28, was found guilty of third offense distribution of crack cocaine and distribution of crack cocaine within half a mile of a school or park.

Circuit Judge Derham Cole sentenced Byers in accordance with the state law for repeat violent offenders. Byers’ prior criminal record included 5 drug convictions.

“James Byers will spend the balance of his life behind bars because he failed to stop selling drugs,” Assistant Solicitor Kim Leskanic said.

Byers’ sold the drug  near the intersection of Sixth Street and Cherokee Avenue close to Mary Bramlett Elementary School.

Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies videotaped the transaction between Byers and the informant

A life sentence for a selling crack.  His offense was just selling $10 dollars crack to police offenders.  $10 worth of crack would be considered to especially migitated felony based on the dollar amount of crack.

The first problem with the sentence that is classification that selling crack is a violent felony.  Selling drugs is not a violent felony because it does not result in the use of physical force on a unwilling victim.

Crack is a dangerous drug and should not prohibited by law.  However, it should be treated like any other nonviolent felony.  This person is not a major regional distributor who runs a large multi-million distribution ring is real criminal, but a low-level street offender  Selling $10 worth of crack should be treated like common petty theft.

With a common petty theft, you would need to sentence the offender to several years in prison as a habitual nonviolent offender.  A fair sentence is like ten years.  But life in prison for a crime that is like petty theft?

If the person committed three armed robberies with a use of a firearm, than a life without parole sentence should be debated as a discreationary punishment.  However,  a  drug sentence is just a petty criminal act and it is an act of selling prohibited goods.  Since the person has a committed the same felony several times, the sentence should be  increased by several years, but not given a life sentence.  

In conclusion, this is a classic textbook case for the misuse of habitual offender laws.  Habitual offender laws are designed to give extended terms for the criminal that needs long period of detention for committing crime several times.  I have conclude that the judge has showed gross negligance in the sentence and that the sentence is not consider to be a  prudent sentence.   Cases like this demonstrate that the legislature in South Carolina needs to reexamine its habitual offender laws and rewrite the law to include only felonies that involve serious physical force such as rape, armed robbery, and murder.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Look - I think the "War on Drugs" is stupid (6+ / 0-)

    But you're simply mischaracterizing this crime.

    The perpetrator is a convicted drug dealer.  This was his third offense at selling drugs near a school.  

    You describe his transgression as:

    His offense was just selling $10 dollars crack to police offenders.

    No.  That wasn't "just" his offense.  His offense was repeatedly selling an illegal, addictive drug close to a school.  In this case an elementary school.

    I'm not prepared to say he deserves life in prison, but this guy has a problem and needs to be separated from society.  He is a threat to that community.  

  •  Goldman Sachs CDO 'crack' no penalty! n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xxdr zombiexx, Roadbed Guy, Annalize5

    Dream, that's the thing to do (Johnny Mercer)

    by plankbob on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 12:11:46 AM PDT

  •  It should definately be against the law to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice, Unduna

          sell crack to police offenders.

    The nearby elementary school was a nice touch, I'll bet his lawyer appreciated it.

    Slap it. Shoot it. Kaboot it.

    by adios on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 12:48:30 AM PDT

    •  Brutal stupidity. Yep. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You made me laugh, though. Nice touch, uh-huh. God.

      Stupid fuck no doubt, but this life sentence crap is out of control.

      Still laughing, though.  

      "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

      by Unduna on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 09:00:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Should this sentence have a "but" instead of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, twigg, wilderness voice

    the "and" ?

    Crack is a dangerous drug and should not prohibited by law.
  •  Selling Crack Should be Illegal (6+ / 0-)

    Because it destroys peoples lives, but a life sentance for a dime bag is absolutely rediculous.

    And I'm going to go there: systematically discriminatory economically, culturally and most probably racially.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 03:11:30 AM PDT

  •  $10 Bag, $600,000 sentence. (7+ / 0-)

    @ $30k/year for incarceration, barring medical issues X 20 years =  $600,000.

    That's a lot of money to solve so very little.

    21st Century Republicans would much rather legalize murder than marijuana.
    DK4 Cannabis Reform Group Writing Guidelines

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 03:34:19 AM PDT

    •  It would be a lot cheaper (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      and more productive to set him up with a rolling hot dog cart.  He could engage in his trade (sales) with a non-lethal product and nobody would care if it was near a school.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 05:07:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well if they really cared (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk, Annalize5

        He doesn't own an airplane and crack don't grow on trees in America, but they'd rather spend the money to lock the community up as opposed to stopping it at the sources, but oh wait why would they not stop the drugs at the sources?  I know because they use the money to fund illegal operations in central america or anywhere else they have a cause for freedom.  

        When they start locking up Charlie Sheen who goes on tv bragging of the 8 balls and hookers he has smoked for life then maybe one could be more sanguine about hot dog cart cracks.

        Every moment in life contains an off ramp. Never be afraid to use it.

        by Adept2u on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 07:36:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  it's too bad we fill up prisons with.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh, Annalize5

    small time crooks, but let the really big fish like Wall Street bankers and casino boys get away with killing the

  •  Just like everything's the money (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    Privatization of our prisons has led to a huge "corrections" lobby. Who cares if a sentence is just or economically feasible as long as some business is making more money. So they lobby legislatures for more draconian laws because they need more money. Instead of trading in widgets they trade in human lives.

  •  In Michigan (0+ / 0-)

    4th offense habitual offender supplement charge carries life by itself. South Carolina isn't alone.

    •  Here's the guy's record: (0+ / 0-)

      looks like five criminal cases, all in 2007.

      Cherokee County
      Seventh Judicial Circuit
      Public Index Cherokee County
      Seventh Judicial Circuit
      Public Index

      Name    Party Type    Case Number    Filed Date    Case Status    Disposition
      Date    Case Type    Case Subtype   

      Judgment #    Court Agency
      Byers, James Henry Jr    Defendant    

      H994137     01/05/2007    Transferred     01/08/2007    Criminal               Cherokee County Magistrate
      Byers, James Henry Jr    Defendant    

      H994138     01/08/2007    Transferred     01/08/2007    Criminal               Cherokee County Magistrate
      Byers, James Henry Jr    Defendant    

      H994139     01/05/2007    Transferred     01/08/2007    Criminal               Cherokee County Magistrate
      Byers, James Henry Jr    Defendant    

      H994140     01/05/2007    Transferred     01/08/2007    Criminal               Cherokee County Magistrate
      Byers, James Henry Jr    Defendant    

      H994549     07/18/2007    Transferred     07/23/2007    Criminal               Cherokee County Magistrate

      From the diarist:

      Circuit Judge Derham Cole sentenced Byers in accordance with the state law for repeat violent offenders. Byers’ prior criminal record included 5 drug convictions.

      So that, the "violent" assignation may  have had something to do with this. Dunno. It's all nutz to me.

  •  I think the larger question... (0+ / 0-)

    goes to why a 28 year old man is selling crack in the first place?

    Is he recruiting younger people to do the same and setting them up for a life condemned to failure?

    The politics of street sellers is all mixed up with crime on many, many levels. Gangs, prostitution, drive by murders in turf wars in which innocents are caught in the crossfire continue unabated.

    And yeah, I know these guys, like the one the diarist describes, are the ones who sell to the end users. I also know the cartels are cashing in on the blood money of the small time guys.

    The cartels are doing business with the government and the international money laundering industry. I know it's a rigged game and death is part of the bargain.

    But where do we draw the line? When does the responsibility on the individual who chooses this route begin ?

    A life sentence? Outrageous. Then the prison industry makes bank. What a clusterf**k.

  •  Aint this a B (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unduna, Annalize5

    Sure they'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to lock the brother up, but they won't spend 1000 bucks to educate him.  I have an idea, why don't they offer those people 30k a year to go to school and not smoke crack, how about a job an opportunity how about some motherfucking drug treatment.

    Every moment in life contains an off ramp. Never be afraid to use it.

    by Adept2u on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 07:44:37 AM PDT

    •  How bout it, at huge savings to the tax-payer (0+ / 0-)

      and actual profit when he starts paying back in as an actual tax-payer himself.

      What we have here are two reinforcing and fatal dysfunctions:
       1) A complete failure of moral imagination
       2) An ongoing willingness and desire for the few to profit off of institutional oppression at ongoing cost to country and citizen alike.

      So sick of it I could puke.

      "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

      by Unduna on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 09:12:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But we both know... (0+ / 0-)

      that ain't ever gonna happen. They want to keep the wheel turning. They don't give a flying fuck about these people. Is it racist? Fuck yeah it is.

      My kid was an addict. She got off on crack for a time. And you know what? There was not one single goddamned thing I could do about it. Not one. But  hell, she'd been drinking since she was thirteen.

      "Treatment" is a joke. Beth had been in "treatment" probably five times in her career as a user.

      Common Relapse Rates in Drug Recovery

      Comparison of Common Relapse Rates in Drug Dependency

      Alcohol recovery showed a surprisingly high relapse rate, with nearly 86 percent of those entering alcohol recovery programs returning to dependency within five years. On the whole, drug treatment relapse rates were nearly as dismal, with 79 percent of those who completed drug recovery programs using again within the same timeframe.

      PCP, inhalants and hallucinogen dependency experience some of the lowest relapse rates in the country, with only 40 to 46 percent of chemically dependent people returning to use within five years of treatment. “Downers” and methamphetamines offered dependent individuals recovery rates that were not much better than a coin flip, with 56 percent of meth users and 51 percent of downer-dependent individuals returning to use within five years.

      The worst results were in those chemically dependent on heroin, with relapse rates of 87 percent after drug treatment.

      Crack experiences the second highest relapse rate with nearly 84 percent of crack users returning to use, as compared to just over half of cocaine users (55 percent).

      Over two-thirds (69 percent) of narcotics-dependent individuals also relapsed within five years. Even marijuana, considered by many to be a “soft drug” with fewer addictive properties, left 72 percent of dependent individuals returning to use after undergoing treatment.

      Just sayin'. The horrible thing about addiction is that it changes so much brain chemistry the person addicted is almost helpless in the face of it.

  •  Or, to put it in perspective... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The first time the cell door closed on him he'd spent more time behind bars than all the combined executives and managers of British Petroleum who recklessly disregarded minimal safety precautions and cost 11 men their lives ever will.

    Their is NO a non-violent offender to spend life behind bars.

    Not even if he was selling Crack inside the elementary school.

    Now there's a place for some state budget austerity.  Quit wasting a fortune locking up these kinds of schlubs for decades!

    "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell." Harry S Truman

    by Notthemayor on Fri Apr 22, 2011 at 12:19:36 PM PDT

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