Man Serving Life Sentence for a $20 Marijuana Sale Freed after 12 Years


A Louisiana man was released from prison last week after serving 12 years of a life sentence he received for selling $20 worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer in 2008.

Fate Winslow, 53, had been homeless at the time of his arrest. After borrowing a friend’s bike and coming back with two small bags of weed, Winslow was arrested and convicted for distribution of marijuana, CNN and WWL-TV report. His conviction led to a life sentence without parole due to past offenses.

Winslow’s case was thrust into the national spotlight in the midst of conversations around institutionalized racism and mass incarceration.

“Rolling Stone magazine did articles about me,” Winslow told WWL-TV. “I was in a bunch of other articles and two documentaries. The other inmates could never believe it. They always said, ‘You’re doing life for a bag of weed?'”

Winslow was released after his attorneys at the Innocence Project New Orleans successfully appealed to have his case resentenced for 12 years.

“There are hundreds of individuals serving life sentences for nonviolent crimes in Louisiana,” said Jee Park, executive director of IPNO and Winslow’s attorney. “He received an obscenely excessive sentence given his life circumstances and crime, and today, we are correcting that unconstitutional, inhumane sentence.”

Moves to decriminalize cannabis have been increasing all over the country. So far, 15 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational cannabis. In early December, the House of Representatives voted to decriminalize cannabis at federal levels.

“My dad and I got closer while he was imprisoned,” Winslow’s daughter, Faith, said in an IPNO press release. “Even though he was locked up, he was there for me when I needed him. I cannot wait to have my dad back fully in my life.”

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