A legislative effort to free a man serving a life sentence for marijuana offenses appears to have strong support.
Under Missouri’s sentencing laws of the 1990s, one man from Sedalia was sentenced to life without parole for marijuana possession and distribution. Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for 21 years.
Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has proposed a bill to have him freed.
“I’ve presented this bill as a way for us to save taxpayers money, to right an injustice that was done to Mr. Mizanskey.”
Dogan also filed the bill because he felt action wasn’t being taken quickly enough on a request for clemency made to Governor Nixon.
In a hearing by the House Committee on Corrections, lawmakers asked probing questions and raised some concerns, but most seemed supportive. Former DEA agent and Drug Task Force investigator, Representative Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis), says the charges don’t fit the sentence…
“I’ve charged people in federal court with 1,000 pounds of marijuana and they got quite a lesser sentence than this,” said Jill.
Dogan’s bill would apply to anyone sentenced to life under Missouri law, but to date Mizanskey is the only such inmate and that sentencing law will be eliminated when the legislature’s changes to the criminal code become effective January 1, 2017.
Representative Shane Roden (R-Cedar Hill) did raise a concern.
“Are we overstepping our authorities in telling probation and parole, ‘You will release this individual without having a probation and parole hearing?’ That’s where I don’t want to overstep our boundaries,” said Roden.
Some lawmakers said if Mizanskey is to be released after more than two decades in prison, it will be important that he have a strong support system to help him adjust back to life on the outside. Mizanskey’s son, Chris, said he will have that support.
“If he gets out and everything goes right and you guys help him out here, he will be back on his feet and working again and paying taxes and living his life like he’s supposed to be,” said Chris Mizanskey. “He’s a very good man and I really hope to see him home soon.”
Mizanskey’s younger brother, Michael, said it was their mother’s dying request of him, that he should fight to secure Jeff Mizanskey’s release. His wife also testified for the bill, as did representatives of the ACLU and Show-Me Cannabis. There was not testimony against it.
There is no indication how soon or if the committee will vote on the bill, but its chairman, Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi), also seemed supportive. He says he recently met with Mizanskey where he is housed, at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
“In 21 years he’s been incarcerated, he’s had two write-ups,” said Fitzwater. “One for having a messy floor in his cell and the other one was for dropping a letter in the wrong box, and those are the only two write-ups that he’s had in 21 years.”