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April 19, 2006

A happy ending to a mandatory sentencing story

With thanks to TalkLeft for this tip, I was very pleased to see this commentary from Debra J. Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle discussing the story of Serena Nunn.  Here are some highlights:

On May 6, Serena Nunn, 36, will graduate the University of Michigan Law School.  Armed with a law degree, she will be in a better position to challenge draconian federal drug laws that six years ago had her serving a 15-year, eight-month sentence for a first-time nonviolent drug offense committed when she was 19....

Be clear on this: Nunn broke the law.  After she dropped out of college, she took up with the wrong boyfriend, a drug dealer -- known as Monte -- whose father (Plukey Duke) was believed to be the leader of the biggest cocaine ring in Minnesota.  After Monte tried to buy cocaine from a government informant, the feds charged 24 people involved in the ring, including Serena, on felony charges involving cocaine distribution.

At trial, prosecutors established that Nunn drove Monte to drug deals and phoned people who owed Monte money.  They found 6.5 grams of cocaine and 4 grams of crack stashed in her bedroom.  A jury found Nunn guilty on all three counts. Meanwhile, prosecutors had offered sweet deals to repeat offenders who testified against others. 

Mandatory-minimum sentences were supposed to guarantee that drug kingpins serve hard time.  Yet the feds allowed the co-leader of this drug ring, Marvin McCaleb, to serve just seven years -- despite prior convictions for major drug dealing, rape and manslaughter....  [The] system routinely sacrifices small fish of the drug trade -- who don't have much information to trade -- while enabling the big fish to re-offend.  The system too frequently offers a get-out-of-jail-early card to the worst criminals....

President Clinton commuted Nunn's sentence in July 2000.  It helped that one of Nunn's prosecutors and then-Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota wrote letters.... The most breathtaking argument came from the sentencing judge, David A. Doty, who wrote an eight-page letter that ripped the mandatory-minimum system to shreds....

On the phone Monday, Nunn told me of the frustration she faced after spending more than a decade behind bars -- and wanting just one chance to turn her life around -- while watching "someone who gets those opportunities, not once, not twice, but even three times" re-offend and return to prison....  [W]hen societies overpunish small-change offenders and underpunish kingpins -- when 19-year-old kids serve sentences that exceed a decade, while career thugs do shorter time -- you end up with expensive injustice.

April 19, 2006 at 11:16 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Dear Serena Nunn,
I am so happy for you, I also served more than a decade in federal prison as a first time non-violent offender at the age of 39, I was convicted of being the chemical supplier for a drug conspiracy where the admitted kingpin and his son testified against me. They got 9 years and 5 years respectfully, while I received a 235 month sentence. I am now 55 years old and after 16 years in prison, I came away with a paralegal certification. I read and studied the law while practicing post-conviction remedies for a plethora of broke and broken inmates. I humbly offer you my services, if you need them, as a gift, a kind of coming home gift to help you get started. You are a returning hero from the drug war, because you took something horribly bad and turned it into something good; not because of rehabilitation, there is no such thing in prison, but because you are special. Good luck Serena in all future ventures and if I can help in any way, contact me, your humble admirer!!

Posted by: Barry Ward | Apr 20, 2006 7:58:54 AM

Sernea, I am so proud of you , we met many years ago and from time to time I google you name to see if you are doing well, and you are I admire you for not letting what happend to you stop you from happiness and success, I hope many others that have been through the system can see what you have done with yourself and it inspire others to keep striving for better things. Again I say congrats, and I wish you the best and I pray that while you are in law that you will be able to keep other young girls from loosing so much of there life in prison because of mistakes.
be blessed
Kimala

Posted by: Kimala Kimble | Jan 12, 2007 5:34:45 PM

I served time with you Serena. In fact I wrote a poem about you and watched you get released. I am very happy for you and I hope the best for you and your family... Cee Cee (Phoenix FPC)

Posted by: Kathryn Elwood | May 7, 2007 9:55:03 PM

I served time with you Serena. In fact I wrote a poem about you and watched you get released. I am very happy for you and I hope the best for you and your family... Cee Cee (Phoenix FPC)

Posted by: Kathryn Elwood | May 7, 2007 9:55:04 PM

I served time with you Serena. In fact I wrote a poem about you and watched you get released. I am very happy for you and I hope the best for you and your family... Cee Cee (Phoenix FPC)

Posted by: Kathryn Elwood | May 7, 2007 9:55:18 PM

Congratulations!! The Lord has answered my prayers through your testimony. I did not spend anywhere near as much time locked as you did (hats off for being strong and keeping your faith), but I do have a rap sheet that is longer. My dream is also to help others avoid the same situations that I have encountered during my earlier years. I was "accepted" to Law School in Florida by the Director of Admissions until the Admissions Comittee saw my record. Even though I do not have any convictions (2 dismissed cases and 2 def adj) they told me to let more time pass and try again. It has been 10 years since I had been charged for anything. My point is Thank You for not giving up, and if are looking for any kind of assistance PLEASE get in touch so I can help in any way needed. I personally will be taking the LSAT again to raise my score to continue mty pursuit of a law degree, and when I do, hopefully someday we can work in the same compacity to help those that are wrongfully accused and sentenced too harshly.
Thank You,
Walter T.

Posted by: Walter | Jul 8, 2007 4:14:56 AM

Congratulations!! The Lord has answered my prayers through your testimony. I did not spend anywhere near as much time locked as you did (hats off for being strong and keeping your faith), but I do have a rap sheet that is longer. My dream is also to help others avoid the same situations that I have encountered during my earlier years. I was "accepted" to Law School in Florida by the Director of Admissions until the Admissions Comittee saw my record. Even though I do not have any convictions (2 dismissed cases and 2 def adj) they told me to let more time pass and try again. It has been 10 years since I had been charged for anything. My point is Thank You for not giving up, and if are looking for any kind of assistance PLEASE get in touch so I can help in any way needed. I personally will be taking the LSAT again to raise my score to continue mty pursuit of a law degree, and when I do, hopefully someday we can work in the same compacity to help those that are wrongfully accused and sentenced too harshly.
Thank You,
Walter T.

Posted by: Walter | Jul 8, 2007 4:16:24 AM

fuck serena

Posted by: | Nov 12, 2008 2:32:02 PM

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