Mr. Harris, a veteran, was sentence to life without parole for selling $30 worth of marijuana. This is a grotesque abuse of Louisiana’s harsh habitual offender law, which allowed prosecutors to punish Mr. Harris for proceeding to trial. Louisiana has long had the highest population of people serving life without parole or its equivalent for non-violent offenses. As a 2013 study demonstrates, ninety-one percent of these individuals are, like Mr. Harris, African-American.
Mr. Harris’ LWOP sentence is truly shocking because it was obtained not just as a result of a prosecutor’s zeal, but due to his trial lawyer’s failures at both the plea and sentencing phases. Yet, even worse- today the state of Louisiana argues that Mr. Harris, and every person like him – has no recourse in the courts to even argue that his sentence is excessive or his lawyer incompetent.
PJI is fighting for Mr. Harris to at least be given a fair opportunity to be heard, and to make out his claim that his life without parole sentence was both illegally obtained and excessive.
You can read more about Mr. Harris’ case in this article at The Appeal.