(TMU) – A U.S. military veteran who was sentenced to life in prison over less than $30 of cannabis is going to be released from prison, his lawyer said.
Derek Harris was arrested in Louisiana back in 2008 for selling undercover officer 0.69 grams of cannabis.
While Harris was initially convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, in 2012 he was re-sentenced to life in prison under the state’s draconian Habitual Offender Law, which grants judges the freedom to impose far harsher sentences on defendants with prior criminal charges.
However, prosecutors in Vermilion Parish have now agreed to release Harris from prison after he served nine years in prison, after he was granted a new hearing by the Louisiana Supreme Court last month.
The court agreed with arguments presented by Harris’ legal counsel that he had “ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing on post-conviction review.”
Harris’ attorney, Cormac Boyle, said that District Attorney Keith Stutes’ office agreed that his client “received ineffective assistance at sentencing and was entitled to a lesser sentence,” but at the time Harris’ lawyer remained silent when the judge claimed he had no choice but to condemn him to life imprisonment as a habitual offender.
Harris also noted that his previous attorney didn’t even remind the sentencing judge that he had a duty to deliver a less severe prison term if the mandatory minimum sentence “shocks the conscience,” reports NOLA.
Boyle noted that his client’s case isn’t some freak incident but illustrative of Louisiana’s long history with the habitual offender law which disproportionately harms Black defendants in the state.
“It is certainly time for Louisiana to rethink how it uses the habitual offender law,” Boyle said. “While in theory such a law may be fine, in practice it perpetuates and exposes some of the worst aspects of the criminal justice system.”
Harris, who had previous offenses of theft and dealing cocaine, had developed a substance abuse problem following his return from Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. operation launched by the U.S. during the 1990-1991 Gulf War in response to Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait.
In his opinion, Louisiana Supreme Court Justice John Weimer noted that Harris’ “prior offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated dependency on drugs.”
Harris was definitely “not a drug kingpin” nor did he fit the profile of “a drug dealer, so far as I can tell,” Weimer added.
It was for those reasons that Harris wasn’t given the maximum 30-year sentence during his initial sentencing, and was only given a life sentence by the trial court after the habitual offender bill had passed.
Harris’ case illustrates the grave plight faced by Louisiana’s roughly 4,700 prisoners serving life without parole, reports Washington Post. However, his recent victory before the Louisiana Supreme Court could see inmates finally being able to challenge their convictions on the grounds of draconian sentencing
Boyle said that Harris will soon be released from state prison and plans to relocate to Kentucky where he can restart his life with a brother and his family.
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”
Binx the Cat, Who Survived Florida Condo Collapse, Found and Reunited With Family
Amid the tragedy of last month’s collapse of a South Florida condo building, there was a tiny bit of good news when a cat named Binx, who lived on the ninth floor of the Surfside building, was found safe and returned to his family.
“I’m glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a Friday press conference, reports NPR.
Levine Cava explained that a volunteer who feeds street cats in the area recognized the cat near the building before bringing him to an animal shelter, where it was then identified.
Gina Nicole Vlasek, the co-founder of the The Kitty Campus rescue group, posted on Facebook that a black cat had been found near the rubble of the group before it was brought to the shelter on Thursday night.
“We are so grateful to be able to help in any small way,” Vlasek said.
“All we needed was a ray of hope in this tragedy,” she continued. “Today was one of the most amazing days.. one of the survivors came to see the cat and to determine if it was her families cat and IT WAS!”
The mayor said that animal control workers are continuing to work to recover any pets that may have survived the horrible collapse.
The 12-story Surfside condo collapsed on June 24. At least 79 people have been confirmed dead, with 61 additional residents remaining unaccounted for.