It’s been a big week in news of the War on Drugs.
Last year I wrote about Richard Paey, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for (at worst) forging prescriptions for his pain medication (click the link for the whole story, which is even worse than it sounds.). Now the Court of Appeal in Florida has rejected his claim that this was cruel and unusual punishment.
Judge James H. Seals filed a withering dissent:
I suggest that it is cruel for a man with an undisputed medical need for a substantial amount of daily medication management to go to prison for twenty-five years for using self-help means to obtain and amply supply himself with the medicine he needed. I suggest it is cruel for government to treat a man whose motivation to offend sprang from urgent medical problems the same as it would treat a drug smuggler motivated to obtain personal wealth and power at the expense of the misery his enterprise brings to others. I suggest that it is unusual, illogical, and unjust that Mr. Paey could conceivably go to prison for a longer stretch for peacefully but unlawfully purchasing 100 oxycodone pills from a pharmacist than had he robbed the pharmacist at knife point, stolen fifty oxycodone pills which he intended to sell to children waiting outside, and then stabbed the pharmacist.
(See the court’s decision for the details.)
The Atlanta police, meanwhile, are looking worse than ever, and that’s saying a lot since they gunned down a 92-year old grandmother a few weeks ago.
Their story has changed yet again. They’re now saying they busted a guy named Fabian Sheats for drugs and he tried to make a deal by telling cops about drugs at Kathryn Johnston’s house.
Police say they used Sheats’ tip to direct a confidential informant to the Neal Street house, where he made a drug buy, leading them to conduct the raid. A man named Alexis White later came forward to say he is a longtime informant and police asked him to lie after the shootings and say he bought drugs at the address. Police will not say who the informant was.
Radley Balko puts it together like this:
This raid was conducted based on nothing more than a tip from Sheats, a convicted drug felon who was looking for leniency. For whatever reason, he sent police to Johnston’s home. The narcotics officers then hid behind the anonymity courts afford to informants, and fabricated the stuff about the buy. They took a shortcut. When the raid went bad, they chased down an informant they’d used in the past — White — and asked him to lie to cover their asses, just as White says they did.
There’s even a 911 tape of someone claiming to be White asking for help because some dirty cops were threatening him.
To his credit, the Atlanta Police Chief has brought in the FBI to investigate the incident. Seeing how this story is evolving, it sounds like he may be using the Johnston incident to do some housecleaning in his department.
Then there’s the House of Death. According to the Guardian, that’s a killing ground operated by the Juarez drug cartel just over the border in Mexico. The DEA apparently had an informant there, and they liked his information so much that they allowed him to kill people there, including at least one American citizen.
This is our War on Drugs.