« Oklahoma on verge of joining states enacting significant prison and sentencing reforms | Main | Data and debates over the death penalty's administration in Oregon »

May 6, 2011

"Fourth marijuana conviction gets Slidell man life in prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this local story from Louisiana, which a helpful reader brought to my attention.  Here are the details:

Cornell Hood II got off with probation after three marijuana convictions in New Orleans. He didn't fare too well after moving to St. Tammany Parish, however.  A single such conviction on the north shore landed the 35-year-old in prison for the rest of his life.

State Judge Raymond S. Childress punished Hood under Louisiana's repeat-offender law in his courtroom in Covington on Thursday.  A jury on Feb. 15 found the defendant guilty of attempting to possess and distribute marijuana at his Slidell home, court records show.

Hood moved from eastern New Orleans to the Slidell area after he admitted to separate charges of distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana on Dec. 18, 2009, in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.  He received a suspended five-year prison sentence and five years' of probation for each -- which was precisely the same penalty he got in that court after pleading guilty to possessing and intending to distribute marijuana on Feb. 22, 2005.

When Hood switched homes, he also requested a new probation officer based in St. Tammany.  Authorities granted the wish, and the officer, Dustin Munlin, drove to Hood's place for a routine visit on Sept. 27, 2010. Munlin found nearly two pounds of pot throughout the house, according to court records. He alerted Sheriff's Office deputies. They arrested Hood, who apparently shared the King's Point house with his mother and young son.

Prosecutors later charged him with one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.  At Hood's one-day trial this week, the evidence presented by the prosecution included a digital scale and about a dozen bags that had contained marijuana before being seized from the house, testimony showed.  Deputies also found $1,600 in cash and a student-loan application with Hood's name on it inside of a night stand.

Jurors deliberated for less than two hours and convicted Hood of a reduced charge, which usually carries no more than 15 years' imprisonment.  Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr. then used Hood's past convictions on Thursday to argue that he was a career criminal worthy of a severe punishment.

Drug offenders in the state are subject to life imprisonment after being convicted three or more times of a crime that carries a sentence exceeding 10 years.

May 6, 2011 at 08:11 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2014e88464544970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Fourth marijuana conviction gets Slidell man life in prison":

Comments

That's crazy! It's a plant!!! FOR crying out loud! Legalize it and all this crappy border wars and prison overcrowding may go away!!!

Posted by: Somebody | May 6, 2011 9:20:26 AM

hmm

"Jurors deliberated for less than two hours and convicted Hood of a reduced charge, which usually carries no more than 15 years' imprisonment. Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr. then used Hood's past convictions on Thursday to argue that he was a career criminal worthy of a severe punishment."

So in other words the DA got the conviction based on 15 year sentence...then used the conviction combined with others to multiple it by 20! any DA's wonder why the average american cant' stand them!

way they are going they will shortly bypass politicians and used care sales men as the slimiest people on the planet!

GOOD WORK!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 6, 2011 12:14:27 PM

Here's a suggestion -- DON'T BREAK THE LAW.

Posted by: Cathy | May 6, 2011 1:05:26 PM

I agree with you Rod...Life for peddling Mowee Wowwa....I don't think so... 15 yrs is a also a stretch for state...For federal, well we won't go there, they are so screwed up, even Bill has a difficult time justifying there sentences...

Posted by: Josh | May 6, 2011 1:37:05 PM

Cathy --

"Here's a suggestion -- DON'T BREAK THE LAW."

Gads, what simplistic thinking. Are you living in a cave or something?

Look, sure, you should follow the law, but only when you feel like it. When you don't feel like it, do what you want. Then, if you get caught -- after having been given several breaks earlier -- you get to say that the problem ain't you, it's everybody else!

Honestly. Are you some kind of fascist or something?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2011 3:40:17 PM

Josh --

"...even Bill has a difficult time justifying there sentences..."

What I have a really, really hard time justifying, or even understanding, is that a guy 35 years old would repeatedly break longstanding law, repeatedly get leniency when he did, and figure that that this would last forever.

It might have occurred to some people that when you spit in the eye of the law again and again, there's a chance that at some point it's going to spit back.

If he thinks the law should be changed, he's got lots of company. If he wants to mount a campaign for change, more power to him. But until it's changed, he doesn't get to make his own law. Vigilatism is not really the way to go.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2011 3:46:21 PM

Whether or not this guy can complain about the fairness of the result, given his notice of the law and frequent breaking of it, it is an entirely separate question whether the result is rational/proportional/worthwhile from a societal/taxpayer point of view.

Is it really necessary to keep this guy in prison for life (no parole on a life sentence in La.), at taxpayer expense, in order to protect the public?

Posted by: Anon | May 6, 2011 3:58:56 PM

Anon --

I don't disagree, really. This case is a subset of the class of cases where a person repeatedly commits relatively low level offenses and it just isn't going to stop. He lives by his own rules. Law is for suckers.

What do we do with such people? I don't know. Housing them for life seems awfully expensive, as you say, but it's a poor message if there's no limit on the indulgence they get.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2011 4:21:08 PM

Bill, the taxpayers could spring for "these people" to take you class!

Posted by: Steve Prof | May 6, 2011 5:12:47 PM

Soronel, in your view this guy should have been executed after his first offense thus depriving him of the opportunity to take BIll's class?

Posted by: Steve Prof | May 6, 2011 5:15:32 PM

guess you slept though that part of law school bill. when they covered the old u.s supreme court decision that state it's not possible to violate an ILLEGAL law since an illegal law is nul and void and is in fact NO LAW AT ALL!

sorry this one violates the only real supreme court decison on the registry there for it is in FACT and IN LAW not legal.

sorry bill shouldn't take a lawyer or judge or rocket scientist to know that if a judge tells you what your doing is legal BECASUE it does not require X.Y,Z and as soon as you leave the court room you order people to DO X.Y.X your ass is the CRIMINAL not those your going after!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 6, 2011 6:54:06 PM

rodsmith --

"[G]uess you slept though that part of law school bill."

It wasn't sleep. It was playing volleyball outside in January. This is the main reason I went to Stanford rather than the cold places. It wasn't that the tuition was any less, I can tell you that.

The volleyball was enjoyable -- though of course back then I could jump. I think I missed most of my property classes on account of it. When it came time for the property exam, however, I got the feeling maybe I should have gone to class a bit more frequently.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2011 7:09:43 PM

Steve,

Well, I am going to separate the issues of what drug policy should be and what sort of response we should have when what laws we do have are broken.

I believe that the entire drug war is a huge waste, that for the most part the ideal set of regulations would deal with things like antibiotics where use does in fact change how the drug works for everyone. I also support plenty of offenses typified by DUI where intoxication and some other activity should not be combined and doing so leads to legal liability. Nevertheless I believe that states should have the freedom (within whatever limits their own constitutions place on such things) to regulate such materials in the fairly draconian manner we currently have (I also believe that a great deal of federal drug enforcement is entirely illegitimate, being far beyond the grant of power agreed to).

I believe, as I have stated numerous times, that a first felony conviction should put the offender in serious jeopardy of execution. Certainly by the second such offense the probability should reach 100%. And just because I don't support the law being enforced, that I think the law is incredibly stupid, does not change that.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 6, 2011 7:57:01 PM

Yes, serious punishment even for victimless crimes like marijuana possession makes loads of sense. Clearly, harsh punishment results in a lower incidence of crime.

For instance, most of the states with the death penalty have the lowest murder rates.

Oh wait, actually, that's not true. Well, at least states without the death penalty have the highest murder rates.

Oh, darn, that's not true either.

But at least the United States, the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, has the lowest crime rate.

Oh wait, that's not true either, not by a long shot.

Let's see. At least the United States, with its draconian drug laws, has finally reached historically low rates of drug usage as well as deaths from drug use--far, far lower than, say, Portugal, which has essentially decriminalized most drug us.

Oh wait. . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | May 7, 2011 5:15:32 AM

Anonymous --

"Clearly, harsh punishment results in a lower incidence of crime."

The increase in incarceration over the last generation has coincided with a dramatic drop in the crime rate -- now lower than at any time since the 1950's. Incarceration is not the only cause of this, but it is one significant cause.

"For instance, most of the states with the death penalty have the lowest murder rates."

One can go through this parsing state-by-state and county-by-county. Or one can look at the forest despite the allure of individual trees.

Looking at the forest, the murder rate throughout the United States plummeted starting with the resumption of executions in significant numbers (i.e., over the last twenty years or so). In addition, there is substantial academic and anecdotal evidence supporting the view that the DP has a deterrent effect. We know for sure it has an incapacitating effect. The same cannot necessarily be said for LWOP, as the Ninth Circuit has spelled out, Allen v. Woodford, 395 F.3d 979 (9th Cir. 2005)(Wardlaw, J.) available here, http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F3/395/979/642572/.

And you conspicuoulsy walk past the question whether the killer's behavior, in particularly grotesque, heartless and sadistic cases, has earned a penalty qualitatively different from the prison term we would give a meth dealer or child molestor.

As for the international comparisons, please. Historical, cultural and demographic factors -- which you omit altogether -- tell a huge part of the story (with crime and a boatload of other things). Just walking past them too is so much silliness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 7, 2011 7:27:02 AM

Don't break the law? I'll bet nobody likes you very much, Cathy.

These laws (severe punishments for relaxing with plant extracts instead of two glasses of wine, weigh-ins to determine "intent" and mindlessly harsh fourth-strike penalties for petty offenses) border on un-American.

Citizens should either be liberated from these tyrannical rules and regimens or we should tamp down all the bastion-of-freedom sloganeering.

Enough, too, of all the arrogant, vengeful, patriarchal, high-handed, super-heated governmental over-reactions to what IT interprets as intolerable disrespect from underling citizens (about 80 percent of whom favor legalizing pot BTW) who engage in victimless, non-violent activities of their own choosing.

Apparently Cornell Hood wasn't flaunting it. He earned his life sentence as a consequence of yet another oddly incongruous American practice in which POs are empowered to violate Fouth Amendment rights at will by popping in for warrantless searches.

The Police State? Are we there yet?

Posted by: John K | May 8, 2011 9:46:27 AM

Cathy, You need to read "Three Felonies a Day". Hope you haven't broken any laws today. :)

Posted by: anon2 | May 8, 2011 10:55:25 AM

John K --

As they say, you can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own facts.

"Enough, too, of all the arrogant, vengeful, patriarchal, high-handed, super-heated governmental over-reactions to what IT interprets as intolerable disrespect from underling citizens (about 80 percent of whom favor legalizing pot BTW)..."

1. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. April 9-10, 2011. N=824 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.5.

.

"Do you favor or oppose the legalization of marijuana?"

.

Favor Oppose Unsure .



ALL 41 56 2 .

Democrats 42 56 2 .

Independents 48 49 3 .

Republicans 28 70 2 .

*************************

2. Pew Research Center. Feb. 22-March 1, 2011. N=1,504 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.

.

"Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?"

.

Yes, legal No, illegal Unsure/
Refused .



2/22 - 3/1/11 45 50 5

3/10-14/10 41 52 7

*************************

3. Gallup Poll. Oct. 7-10, 2009. Adults nationwide.

.

"Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?" N=511 (Form A), MoE ± 5

.

Legal Not legal Unsure .



10/7-10/10 46 50 4 .

10/1-4/09 44 54 2 .

***************************

4. AP-CNBC Poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. April 7-12, 2010. N=1,001 adults nationwide. MoE ± 4.3.

.

"Do you favor, oppose or neither favor nor oppose the complete legalization of the use of marijuana for any purpose?"

.

Favor Oppose Neither Unsure .



4/7-12/10 33 55 11 1 .

.

"Do you favor, oppose or neither favor nor oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use?"

.

Favor Oppose Neither Unsure .



4/7-12/10 34 55 11 -

****************

Summary: According to CNN, Pew, Gallup and AP-CNBC, between 50 and 55 percent support keeping marijuana illegal, and between 31 and 46 percent (averaging out at about 40 percent) support legalizing it.

Where in the world are you getting this 80 percent pro-legalization figure? Is that a poll of the editorial staff at High Times?



Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2011 2:06:13 PM

I'm sure Senator Jon Kyl's John K's remark was not intended to be a factual statement, but rather to illustrate that Planned Parenthood, a organization that receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, does subsidize abortions millions of Americans support legalization.

Posted by: centrist | May 8, 2011 9:32:05 PM

centrist --

John K's direct, factual claim that "about 80 percent of [the American public] favor legalizing pot" is, according the the polls I cited, and you do not contest, grossly incorrect. In fact, support for legalization is roughly HALF what John K claims, and every poll showed that support for keeping marijuana illegal exceeds support for legalizing it.

As for the fanciful and unsupported assertion that his numbers were "not intended to be a factual statement," but merely to "illustrate" that "millions of Americans support legalization," one might just as easily say that a claim that (1) 80 percent of the public believes that we are being visited by UFO's really just means that (2) millions of Americans believe in UFO's.

(1) is false. (2) is true. To maintain otherwise is to maintain that words have no meanings.

P.S. Weren't you just complaining about going off topic? The topic of this entry is marijuana. Senator Kyl, Planned Parenthood and abortion have zip to do with it.


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2011 9:58:12 PM

Oh Bill, you take everything so darn seriously. I was just trying to interject a little humor into the discussion.

"P.S. Weren't you just complaining about going off topic? The topic of this entry is marijuana. Senator Kyl, Planned Parenthood and abortion have zip to do with it."

You're right, I admit it, I went off topic; I saw an opportunity to make a joke and I took it. So sue me.

Or better yet, follow your own "advice": "[a]ny of us has the option of simply ignoring a comment he finds off topic and addressing those he finds more to the point."

Posted by: centrist | May 8, 2011 10:59:47 PM

centrist --

"Oh Bill, you take everything so darn seriously. I was just trying to interject a little humor into the discussion."

No you weren't. You were trying to extricate a pro-pot commenter from his gigantic whopper that 80% of the public favors legalization. You did this by transmogrifying his claim into merely an "illustration" that lots of people favor legalization, which is both as true and as pointless as saying that lots of people believe in UFO's.

"You're right, I admit it, I went off topic; I saw an opportunity to make a joke and I took it. So sue me."

You were so breatlessly indignant when I went "off topic," yet so carefree and breezy when you do. And should I apply your take-a-hike "so sue me" standard to your future complaints about my comments?

"Or better yet, follow your own 'advice': '[a]ny of us has the option of simply ignoring a comment he finds off topic and addressing those he finds more to the point.'"

A part of your comment WAS on point -- the part trying to dig John K out from under his wildly false claim about the degree of public support for legalization. The part that was not on point was the business about Kyl and Planned Parenthood.

That latter part was revealing, however. You may call yourself "centrist," but you're anything but. When you go way out of your way to take a shot at a Republican legislator about Planned Parenthood, that may be a sign of many things, but moderation is not one of them.

Everything you've said on this board supports the liberal side, much of it by snark ("...so sue me"). In my view, being liberal is a mistake, not a sin. So why not just admit that's where you're coming from and clear the air?


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2011 4:34:06 AM

OK...I wish I'd said millions instead of 80 percent, but then I don't put as much stock as Bill obviously does in polls querying low-information voters about complex issues.

Polls on pot legalization seem especially useless given the extent to which the issue has been mangled by years of demagoguery and misinformation campaigns. In fact I'm thrilled to think close to half of my fellow Americans are so open-minded, well-informed and deft at deflecting all the bogus anti-pot propaganda.

BTW, Bill, I'm not pro-pot. I'm pro-freedom.

Thanks for the life preserver, centrist.

Posted by: John K | May 9, 2011 5:15:51 PM

John K --

You have said that you are a journalist by profession and I fully believe it, given your facility with words. Thus, when you said 80% favor legalization -- a remarkably specific and high figure on such a contentious issue -- something in particular, and not carelessness, must have led you to say it. If you care to say what that was, I'd be interested.

"BTW, Bill, I'm not pro-pot. I'm pro-freedom."

Many of my libertarian friends are "pro-freedom." It is, as ever, a matter of line-drawing. One could also want the schematically identical freedom that would come from legalizing meth or heroin, but even robust libertarians tend to get shy about that.

Reasonable minds differ on the pot question. It seems to me that the polls reflect, not ignorance, but different evaluations of how much curbing the adverse health effects of long term marijuana use counts versus the freedom, as it were, that legalization would bring. I know plenty of smart people on both sides of the question.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 9, 2011 7:17:26 PM

No excuses. I was sloppy with my facts. As best as I can reconstruct my thinking when the 80 percent figure bubbled up I was mindful of the percentage (somewhere in the high-70s range, I believe) of poll respondents favoring letting doctors prescribe pot for medical purposes.

But in truth, I've never carefully read even one pot poll...for the reason I gave in my response questioning the value of such polls...other, perhaps, than to predict how weather-vein politicians will legislate.

I think the record of desperate, violent behavior that sometimes accompanies meth and heroin use makes those drugs a different question altogether. At least I can't recall reading any stories about potheads going on shooting sprees or clubbing old ladies for their Social Security checks so they could buy more pot. Never heard of a bong bursting into flames and leveling buildings.

I too know smart people on both sides. As you can probably imagine my (homicide detective, internal affairs) Dad and I had some interesting discussions about the legalization question.

Posted by: John K | May 10, 2011 1:09:32 PM

Bill:

The "LAW" as understood by a majority of the the American populace (public school indoctrinated idiots) is a BIG JOKE!

I have seen more people (innocent bystanders or non-convicted (supposed) criminals killed by LE than LE killed.

That is all you need to know. That is why you don't know the true definition of conservative.

Ask me tommorrow for the details.

I HATE the propaganda (platitudes) of New Yorks Finest (Union Police), New York's Bravest (Union Firefighters) and New York's Strongest (Union DPW Workers).

Of Course, the truth is on their side.

That is why we are broke.

Posted by: albeed | May 11, 2011 12:10:11 AM

Bill,

For what it is worth, I also support legalization of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. I fully support coming down like a ton of bricks on those who can not otherwise obey the law while under the influence of such substances. Like I said, where I see the need for much more intense regulation is in the use of drugs like antibiotics where overuse reduces how well the drug works for everyone. But so long as people are only killing themselves, I really don't care.

Remember that morphine and heroine were originally seen as beneficial because opiate addicts, unlike drunks, tend to stay home and be quiet, not causing problems so long as they have a ready supply.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 11, 2011 1:29:10 PM

All amendments to the crack laws/unfair sentencing guidelines should be made retroactive to provide justice and equality to those who have been living out these unfair sentences. How can we call these changes just if we don't include all the amendments which were put in place to make these laws fair to begin with?

Posted by: DIY Superannuation | Nov 23, 2011 9:22:13 PM

All amendments to the crack laws/unfair sentencing guidelines should be made retroactive to provide justice and equality to those who have been living out these unfair sentences. How can we call these changes just if we don't include all the amendments which were put in place to make these laws fair to begin with?

Posted by: DIY Superannuation | Nov 23, 2011 9:23:19 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB